What Are You Supposed to Do with School Papers?

School papers come home in bags and piles the last couple of weeks of school. Artwork, worksheets, stories, journals, and more more more. What are you supposed to do with it all?

Stuff it in the back of your kids’ closet? Keep everything? Throw it all away?

Options for What to Do with School Papers

  1. Pile of school papersKeep Everything: I don’t recommend this option. Your child is likely to be in school for 13+ years. That’s a lot of paper. It’s a space stealer, a fire hazard, a way of keeping things we don’t actually care about.
  2. Get Rid of Everything: If you and your child decide that the assignment or artwork has been completed and what your child accomplished will remain, get rid of the papers.
  3. Only Keep What’s Important: If you don’t want to get rid of everything, you should be clear about why you’re saving it. Define what makes the papers important and only keep those.

How to Go Through School Papers

Parents often say it’s too painful to go through papers or anything with the kids. They want to keep it all. Kids get fidgety. They start throwing everything away. Yep. Teaching kids to go through their things and decide what they want isn’t always fun, but it doesn’t have to be miserable.

Make Kids Part of the Process

The papers are the child’s after all. I’ve had clients keep every single drawing, worksheet, and bit of paper that comes home—or throw it all away—often without the input of the kids who actually produced the work. Having kids go through their own papers will give you and the child information about what is there and what is important to either or both of you.

Make Time for Multiple Sessions

Since it’s summer, you may be going through a huge amount of papers—especially if you haven’t had a system for dealing with schoolwork before now. You may need multiple sessions this first time. Don’t expect this to happen in one quick sitting. As you and your kids go through papers, you’re setting yourself up for things to be easier each time you need to do this again.

Realize This Process Is About More Than Paper

Going through school papers is a great place for kids to learn how to make decisions about what’s important to them. Any decluttering job works with the same skills, but the emotional stakes change depending on the object. Papers are a great place for kids to start learning how to discern what is special, what to keep and what to get rid of. Don’t make those decisions for them. Instead, teach them organizing strategies they’ll be able to apply to papers, toys, gifts, clothing, and more.

Be Realistic About What You and the Child Can Do in One Sitting

Depending on the age of the child and on whether they’ve ever gone through the choosing and decluttering process before, they will have a limited attention span for any of the steps below.

If the child is getting silly or their attention seems to be waning, take a snack break or let them go run around or play a game for a while. You might even need to come back to the piles the next day. You won’t need to do this every time, but give kids a lot of space and time as they’re learning to go through their own things so they don’t associate organizing and decluttering as something unpleasant.

5 Steps to Declutter School Papers

Going through the papers is a 5 step process, but this list has two bonus steps to help you keep from ever building up this much paper again.

  1. Categorize
  2. Like with like within categories
  3. Define criteria and decide what to keep
  4. Display
  5. Put away
  6. Take another pass at it
  7. Create an ongoing system

If you’d like some more guidance through the process, read my post on How to Declutter Kids’ School Papers in 7 Steps.

Contact Me

If you want moral support, guidance, or just another person to help you and your child go through school papers, give me a call at 512-591-8129 and we’ll set up some time. I can also help with kids’ rooms and playrooms. 

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