The End of the School Year and That Mountain of School Papers

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The following post is from LifeasMOM contributor, JessieLeigh:

photo source

Thanks to record snowfalls this past winter, we won’t be getting out of school until the end of June this year. I know some of you have been out for a month already! Either way, there’s always lots of paperwork to sort through and deal with.

It is always astounding to me just how much STUFF comes home with my two school-aged children. Between daily reports, artwork, homework, classwork, permission slips, special event notifications, and town news, I end up with an average of more than a dozen pieces of extra paper each day. That’s a lot of extra clutter!

Now that the school year is over, it’s important to tackle that mountain of paper and cull out the only ones that really need saving.

Here are five steps I’ll be taking to tackle that chore:

  1. Note important dates on the calendar. There are lots of “end of the year” festivities happening at the school and I don’t want to miss them! It’s much more efficient to mark them on the applicable dates and toss the notices that gather on my kitchen table.
  2. Hang birthday invites or community activities we’ll be attending on the fridge. These will get marked on the calendar as well, but I like to hold onto the originals in case I need to reference phone numbers or other details. Anything we’re not doing? In the trash.
  3. Fill out any necessary forms/slips and get them back to the school. I don’t want any important school paperwork floating around here over the summer.
  4. Get ruthless with the artwork. I keep one current and often seasonal piece of artwork on the fridge from each child pretty much at all times. Other than that, I save only very special pieces and ditch the rest. Is this hard? Sometimes. But I can honestly say that the kids don’t miss it. I will also point out that I have never felt sad that my parents did not retain every picture I ever drew or painted. I’m just saying.
  5. File important documents. Report cards, test results, therapist records from conferences… these all get filed away in individual folders for each specific child. These are the things I might need to reference at a moment’s notice and I want to be able to get my hands on them quickly and efficiently.

photo source

If I follow those steps, I should get things back in reasonable order. More important than all that, perhaps? Avoiding the avalanche in the coming school year. It will be here all too soon!

Some things to keep in mind as the papers start flowing through the door…

  • Ask about digital communication. Some schools are happy to email you their notices. This saves time, trees, and clutter. See if it’s an option for you.
  • Touch each paper once, if possible. If it needs to be filed, do so. If it needs filling out, get it done. If it can get tossed, throw it out right away. There’s nothing worse than shuffling the same stack of papers around for a week or two as it continues to grow.
  • Recognize your children’s work as soon as you see it… and then give yourself permission to toss it if it’s not something precious. Compliment her drawing or praise his math work… and then get rid of it. You really don’t need to save a stack of multiplication worksheets.
  • Find out what your spouse wants. You may not have expected this one, but it’s my last and most important tip. Find out what items your spouse wants to be able to look at. In our family, my husband is interested in seeing the academic stuff, but doesn’t really care about the notices or daily recaps. I used to dutifully save the classroom details for him to peruse and I’d get frustrated when they piled up. Finally, he just told me, “Look, I trust you’ll tell me about anything important.”  That gave me the freedom to toss them after I’d read them.

I’m looking forward to a relatively paperless summer and to keeping it all in check in the coming school year!

What are your best tips for tackling the paperwork mountain?

— JessieLeigh is the mother of a former 24-week micropreemie and two full-term blessings as well. She is a determined advocate for the tiniest of babies, including the unborn, and a firm believer in faith and miracles. She shares about raising such a precious, tiny baby over at Parenting the Tiniest of Miracles.

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  1. I have toddlers/preschoolers and for me, its interesting to watch their art progress. So when they’ve gone from scribbles to circles, big motions to tiny “letter like” motions, abstract to representative (drawing faces that look more like faces), I want to save those pictures that signify big transitions in how they make art. (I’m an artist and i find that really interesting.) While I want to keep those things, we live in a TINY town home and there is no space for piles or boxes of art to hang around. I’ve found that photographing their art to be stored by date in an “art folder” on my computer has allowed me to enjoy their art without the space it takes up. Yes, we still save a few precious pieces, and have some hanging in our house, the bulk of it is stored digitally and takes up no space at all!

    1. @Suzy, I think this is a great plan! I am shamefully disorganized digitally (let’s not even talk about our photos, *ahem*), but I really admire people who use a system like this. Great suggestion!

  2. My sister-in-law had a brilliant idea that we’ve adopted in our house in regard to the massive amounts of artwork that come home from school. We keep one piece on the fridge, child favorites go on the bulletin board in his room (& then to his memory box to save) and everything else gets put on the bedside table in the guest room for grandparents to take. Anything that isn’t gone after each set of grandparents visits gets trashed/recycled.

  3. My best tip is to recognize that organizing papers takes TIME and to schedule it in accordingly. If you’re in denial and resisting the idea that silly pieces of paper should take up even half an hour of your day, then you’re going to get behind and it will take even more time (and hassle) to sort out the mountain you’ve created (I know from experience!). I try to recognize the times in the day/week when I’ll be handling papers, and plan some time accordingly, the same way I would schedule time to do other chores.

    1. @Elizabeth, Great tip! I usually allot about 10 minutes right when my kids get home to sort through… when I don’t? Oh, my… it gets crazy very quickly around here! 🙂

  4. This is a great and timely post! I have a mountain to go through as well. I try to purge during the year as they bring home stuff too. I keep a plastic bin for each kiddo by my desk to put all the papers in for the school year – then I sort them out during the summer, keeping the important things but recycling the rest. And this year, I’m sending a bunch to grandparents as well (because even with my careful purging during the year, I still end up with way too much to keep).

  5. Great post! As the mom of an ‘only’ I was BOGGED down in saving it all….well…I don’t anymore but what to do with the EXCESS??? I recycle the memos, worksheets etc as printer paper for my coupons! If something has no “back” to it, I put it all in a basket and for my weekly coupon printing I use that! I don’t buy copy for couponing practically all year long! A great way to save a little money and do my part to not fill the landfill! 🙂

    1. @cathi carpenter, I need to get better at re-using all those papers! I DO usually save them so the kids can color on the blank sides, but I could definitely put them to use for coupon printing as well. Great tip!

  6. This post comes at the perfect time as I stare at the MOUNTAIN of unorganized papers on my dining room table. My daughter started kindergarten this year as I was astounded by the amount of paper she got EVERYDAY! I never knew what to keep or throw out and so it would end up just sitting and taking up space. Not to mention look awful. I need to get a system together. These are fantastic tips! I also like what other readers had to say. Thank you.

  7. I am a homeschool mom and believe it or not, I also have papers to go through!! My 9 yr. old does not want much saved but we save tests ONLY and file them immediately after I grade them. My k-4 yr. old LOVES her art work so we pick one piece a day (if we do art daily) and put on fridge for dad to see-it is taken down the next day and thrown out. Her other papers are given a tray for a week, then pitched. As there are no “tests” for her, we only kept a few extra special, good job pages which we put on a board of “My Shining Stars” and traded them out as need for space arose. At the end of the year, we are left with only tests in the file cabinet, grade book, a few art project pages which I cut down to scrapbook!!

    1. @Trina, Oh, I have no doubt that homeschooling moms deal with a TON of paperwork! Sounds like you have a good system in place to help handle it all… good for you! 🙂

  8. When I saw the school bus, I instantly recognized the school district. Then I read that due to the record amount of snow this year and was stumped. The school bus is from the desert of Arizona, so I was thinking snow? We didn’t have any snow here in the Phoenix area this year- at least that would close school. Then I saw the photo was from flickr. Ha! Way to keep me on my toes!

    Thanks for the school paperwork tips!

    1. LOL! Sorry for the confusion! I don’t have many personal photos of school buses, so I appreciate flickr’s creative commons.

  9. Great post JessieLeigh! I am just starting the paper fight as my oldest will begin Kindergarten in the fall (tear, tear, sniff). I already have a mountain of paper work to complete as well and notices. I am going to take your tips and use them wisely!

  10. Besides the “normal” papers, I ended up with a LOT of paintings this year. My daughter especially seemed to choose painting as her center almost daily! I saved a couple of them and the rest I use as wrapping paper. It is a win-win-win. I get free wrapping paper and less clutter, the recipient enjoys getting special homemade paper and the kids feel special b/c I used their artwork!

    The only problem is the recipients often save it and end up with their own clutter pile 🙂

  11. At first I had the super organized idea to scan their artwork and then we’d always have it to remember. Yeah, that didn’t last long. Instead I have a big pile of colorful artwork (preschool, kindergarten, 2nd grade) and it’s sitting on a pile of cheap frames from Michael’s. After school gets out we’ll add it to the play room wall… the kids love to help and it’s a cheap way to decorate a crazy space!