Have you seen the billboards or posters that proclaim that babies do not come with instructions?
Kids may not arrive with instructions, but as soon as they can hold a crayon in their chubby little fist, they bring in a flurry of papers. Pretty soon, the refrigerator is tipping over, due to the weight of the refrigerator magnets and art work on it! Although making the fridge difficult to open may be good for our figure, it is not too great for the frustration level.
Children’s school papers, awards and artwork are something we certainly want to keep but they can quickly become part of the clutter in the household- from kitchen to dining table to kids' rooms. The most important thing to realize in organizing this clutter is that we don’t need to keep ALL of the papers.
This is a great time to corral those papers, sort and store them, then set up a new system for incoming papers. This is opportunity to organize WITH your children. A child is not born knowing to be organized but learns that skill. Part of the problem with the scads of school papers is the child doesn’t know what to do with them either.
I’m going to take you through processes to corral kid’s papers. Remember, this is a parent and child job. (Unless you want to be your child’s secretary until they leave for college!)
Clearing the Paper Clutter
• Remove all papers from the fridge and any place else they get tacked up and taped up. (Give the fridge a good cleaning since it is so rarely empty.
• Gather all the papers by going from room to room with a laundry basket. Don’t forget to look in old book bags, desk drawers and other clutter spots. A break for a Popsicle reward after that is grand.
• Sort papers into stacks for each child.
• Have each child look through their papers and pick five that they want to do a show–n-tell with. They can tell you about the art work or about why they were proud of that grade. That selection process will help you see which papers are important, from your child’s viewpoint.
• Decide how many papers to keep. Having a number to shoot for is very helpful. This way you can pick the ten best art papers, two reports and perhaps five to ten samples of school work or handwriting for that grade. At this point, this is where you scrapbookers pick out a couple favorites for the scrapbook.
• Get rid of the excess old papers. Depending on the sensitivity of the child, you may want to quietly do this or if the child is older, they may really get a big chuckle out of putting the old math and spelling homework in the grill and having a s’more’s party and toasting marshmallows.
• This is one case where I do think a plastic tub is great. For storing school work, I like the ones that have a lip to hold hanging file folders. (Look at office supply stores.)You can label the folder with the grade, and put in the papers and awards for that year. You should be able to get a great number of school years into one tub.
• For very large pieces of artwork: Sometimes there are poster size or large pieces that you want to keep but you don’t want to fold into a file folder. You can purchase an art portfolio. I recently bought a very large one at a discount store for under $15. You won’t have very many large items so this file should hold them many years’ worth.
• Label! Be sure to label the tub with the child’s name. Label the file folder with the school year. You might even glue on an extra school photo from that year on the folder. Add their report card and any awards from the year. Store away until next year!
Professional Organizer Lea Schneider’s advice has been seen in Woman’s Day, Natural Health and Better Homes and Gardens Kids’ Rooms magazines. She is a member of the National Association of Professional Organizers and the Association of Food Journalists. She's taken her best advice as a mother of three and a professional organizer and put it in her E-book, “Growing Up Organized: A Mom-to-Mom Guide.” See it and more tips at her website www.organizerightnow.com