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Managing the paper mounds!

How to keep the sentimental clutter under control

How to keep the sentimental clutter under control

Every year, children begin bringing home a hodgepodge of school papers that left unmanaged can grow into a mountainous heap. To keep kids’ artwork, past assignments and graded documents in check, parents should establish an effective paper management system.

“The biggest problem with kids’ papers is parents are sentimental and want to keep most of what their child does. But that’s not practical, nor is it essential,” says Kathy Schlegel, student academic coach and founder of Organized Enough LLC®, a coaching and consulting company. “To keep paper clutter under control, I suggest parents toss the majority of what comes home. But retain a few items for record keeping and nostalgic purposes.”

Elementary school principal Charles Sheppard, agrees.

“It’s a good idea to hold onto graded papers that may be in question through the end of each marking period in case there is a discrepancy on the report card and you need documentation to discuss it with the teacher,” he says. “At the end of the marking period, throw away items that aren’t necessary or meaningful to you. But hold on to a few really impressive pieces — stories your child has written, select artwork and papers with encouraging comments. Put your child’s age, grade and date on the backside of these so later he’ll have a sampling of what he did.”

It may also be helpful to retain some records for the duration of your child’s academic career.

“None of this is required by state, but sometimes things get destroyed or are missing if a catastrophe occurs,” says Gail Ralph, a public school records analyst. “Because of the unforeseen, parents should retain their child’s report cards, battery tests and immunization records. If their child is eligible for special education they should also maintain the past three years of individual education plans, as well as any fact sheets that document medical evidence or his initial diagnosis.”

Take photos

Robin Elton holds onto report cards and select items for a keepsake binder she’s planning to create for each of her children. Other pages are displayed and then eventually recycled.

“When papers come home from school we immediately decide what to display, what to toss and what to reuse,” says the mother of three. “Each child has a bulletin board in the hallway, so art work they are particularly proud of goes there and is rotated at their discretion. Well-done schoolwork, tests and projects get posted on the refrigerator and are cleared every Sunday as part of our weekly cleaning. Things I really like I’ll frame and put up on the dining room wall. As artwork ultimately finds its way to the recycling bin, the artist is photographed with it and these pictures serve as a random slideshow on the computer screen.”

Schlegel thinks this is a good idea. “My whole philosophy is to keep it simple,” she says. “Once items have run their display time, save only those papers you plan to create a keepsake with. Slip them into clear sheet protectors — the ones with three-hole punches — and place them in a binder. If you have a prolific artist, take photographs of treasured works and either include them in your keepsake binder or make a separate photo album. This is particularly good for large pieces that would otherwise get crumpled.”

Binders can even be used to create a chronological keepsake of your child’s academic career.

“Each year have your child fill a page with characteristics about that year: who his teacher is, his favorite subject, accomplishments or awards, best friends and what he wants to be when he grows up. Include a pocket folder for each year where you can store report cards and a few other special mementos,” says Sheppard.

READ MORE: 9 tips to conquer kid clutter


Then recycle what you can. Use blank-sided papers for making lists or other sketches. Turn large artwork into wrapping paper for boxes or use as tissue paper in bags. Place colorful designs behind framed photographs to serve as matting. Elton does this and more.

“Colorful artwork goes into a file drawer and is eventually used to create greeting cards and post cards. And scribble drawing we cut, stamp initials on the blank side and then bind with ribbon and give as note pads to family and friends,” she says.

Elton has even taught her son Jacob to put otherwise discarded artwork to literary use.

“When he was younger, he drew a lot of pictures of different birds, so I bound those pages and created a bird book, and he really liked that,” she continues. “This past year at school he started drawing a series of original Indiana Jones characters and it carried over into the summer. Now that he’s done a lot of pages, he plans to make them into a comic book.”

Most important teach your child how to continually downsize paper piles by helping him learn which items are of true lasting value and which ones can be quickly discarded. In doing so, he will begin a life-long habit of clutter-free living that will benefit him for years to come.

Denise Yearian is the former editor of two parenting magazines and the mother of three children.