Well hello there, friends! I am diving into Operation: Declutteration a few days early this week because of a pre-scheduled post on Friday, and I am so excited to get organizing! If you’re new to the blog, every week I have been taking one cluttered up area in our home and coming up with a system to organize it in a way that works for our family, sharing what I’ve learned along the way.
Today let’s talk about paperwork. I thought we had solved that problem when Donnie implemented his paperless system a few years ago, but then Connor went to kindergarten. Oh. My. Goodness. No one ever told me that kindergarten = a tree’s worth of papers coming home in his book bag every day. Seriously, there’s paper everywhere! 🙂
I guess I did get a little taste of what it would be like when he was in preschool. I don’t know if you did this when your first child went off to school, but that first year, I thought I needed to keep everything. I bought an accordion file, labeled the tabs by month, and every little scribble that came home went into the pocket for the designated month. Do you know where that accordion file is right now? I don’t. I think maybe somewhere in our garage…? We haven’t looked at it again because it’s totally overwhelming with so many papers– the special ones are mixed in with the scribbles and we can’t find a thing.
When I saw the amount of paperwork that was coming home from kindergarten, I knew I had to make a plan to deal with it. We have been tweaking it and improving our system as the year has moved along, and I think the solution we’ve finally arrived at is working pretty well. It all starts with the folder…
Every day Con brings home this little green folder, stuffed to the gills with papers. I try to take it out of his book bag and sort it right away when he gets home, but if that doesn’t happen, I make sure to have it done before he goes to school the next day. I look through all of the papers, and most of them end up in the same spot– the trash can. Though I love every single bit of work he does, I had to make a choice: keep files upon files of paperwork I’ll never look at and have my house cluttered 24/7 or do without the clutter and only keep the pieces that are are extremely well done or have a special significance. I went with the latter. Not only does this help us minimize clutter, but we are more likely to cherish the pieces we actually keep because 1) they really are special, and 2) we don’t have to dig through a huge cluttered mess to find them.
So what do I keep? Well, homework is pretty important, so we keep the homework packet he brings home each month, a list of his sight words, and his packet of “sharing assignments” for the month in his designated folder in our command center.
I created this little spot way back in September, and it certainly has served us well! Each of the Cs has their own little folder/hanging pocket where we keep the aforementioned homework information and items that we need to take action on. Whenever we’re finished with these things, they make their way to the trash.
Sometimes Connor or Caleb will bring home a craft or seasonal project or test they’ve done well on that we want to put on display for a little while. We used to hang these on our refrigerator, but I didn’t like the cluttered feel it gave the kitchen, so on a recent IKEA trip, I picked up a DIGNITET, which I guess it technically a curtain wire, but it made the perfect little art display in their toy area.
Once the season has passed or we’re ready to replace these papers with new ones, we either throw the papers away or if they’re really, really special, they get to go in…
…The box. This is where all of the Cs’ best work is kept. Right now I keep their stuff in the same box because they’re little and haven’t accumulated much yet. I’m sure at some point each boy will need his own dedicated box, but for now this saves space. 🙂
Inside the box are hanging folders, each with a color-coded tab (Caleb is orange, Connor is yellow) that tells me which year of school the work represents. (To make them pretty, I just took the plain white tags that came with the folders, covered them with washi tape, and used my label maker with clear tape to put the Cs’ names and grade levels on the tags.) I also keep a folder in the back of this box that has extra photos of each of the boys from sports teams, school pictures, etc.
At the front of each file folder, I keep a school information sheet (available as part of my eBook, Simplify: 25+ Printables to Help You Organize Your Life) which lists information about their year, school, teacher, their activities, and also a spot to list any memorable moments they had throughout the year.
So now instead of an overcrowded accordion file, I have a neatly organized box that holds the best samples of the Cs’ work from each year they’re in school. It’s fun to open up the box (which resides in their bedroom closet) every once in a while to look back at what they’ve done and see how far they’ve come. So what did I learn while decluttering the kids’ school papers?
- I have to establish a workflow. I know that sounds like a serious word for preschool and kindergarten paperwork, but I know that if I don’t have a plan for what to do with all the paper that enters our house, I end up with piles of clutter, and that’s what I’m trying to avoid!
- Keeping less makes the items I do keep more important. I really want to be able to look back at some of the Cs’ work and remember what types of things they learned each year, and I know I will never do that if it’s a cluttered mess. By only keeping select pieces from each year, I know we’ll still have a good representation of what they’ve done without the clutter.
- I have to be willing to change systems that aren’t working. Sure, it was easy to stuff all of Con’s papers in an accordion file, but it wasn’t effective and it was certainly not organized; it was just another vessel to hold my clutter. Rethinking the system may have taken a little extra effort, but we have a much better result in the end.
My favorite thing about this system is that it helps us cut down on the paper clutter while still keeping some fun mementos. This certainly isn’t the only system that works for kids’ papers, but it has been working really well for us so far, so hopefully it stays that way!
I’d love to hear how you organize alllllllll the crazy paperwork that your kids bring home from school or what decluttering projects you’ve been working on lately, so be sure to let me know in the comments! Have a wonderful week!