So here we are in Week 4, about a third of the way through the Paper Declutter Challenge. I’m so glad you’re coming back for more! This week, you’ll be organizing school papers.
If you are new to the challenge, be sure to check out the challenge assignments from previous weeks and schedule a time in the future to complete those assignments. In Week 1, we set up a system for managing the mail. During Week 2 and Week 3, we put systems in place for managing handy reference and long-term reference papers.
For the next two weeks, we’ll turn our attention to the papers that flow into the home via our kids’ backpacks.
If you don’t currently have school-aged kids living in your home, then you get to take a 2-week vacation from the Challenge (we are tackling kids’ artwork next week).
Before you begin your happy dance though, ask yourself if there is a stash of old school papers lurking somewhere in your home from years past, when your (now adult) children were in school. If so, use this week as your opportunity to sort and purge that school paper memorabilia, then organize it using one of the recommended systems I outline below.
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Organizing School Papers by Type
Handy Reference Papers
Many of the school papers you’ll come across in your child’s backpack fall into the category of Handy Reference. These papers include such things as lunch menus, class rosters, teacher contact information, school bell schedule, academic calendar, etc. Many of these papers will arrive at your home during the first week or two of school.
Lucky for you we covered exactly what to do with handy reference paper in Week 2.
Parent “Homework” (a.k.a. Action Papers)
Schools don’t just assign homework to students…they require a lot of homework for parents as well!
The second category of school paper is what I call Parent Homework; it includes papers such as permission slips/fundraiser order forms/sign-up sheets to complete and school newsletters to read. These papers require action to be taken on your part.
Any guesses as to how you should handle this category of paper?
That’s right…incoming school papers that require action from you should be either a) dealt with immediately and then placed in your child’s backpack to be returned to school the next day, OR filed into your action file in the appropriate folder (e.g., Forms to Complete, To Pay, To Read, To Enter in Calendar).
When it comes to papers that contain details regarding upcoming school events like field trips, school performances, etc., you can enter the event details in your calendar (if you keep an electronic calendar) then recycle the paper. Alternatively, you can choose to simply enter the date/time of the event on your calendar and keep the paper to refer to until the event has occurred.
For example, I keep these “upcoming events” papers clipped together on the side of the refrigerator in chronological order of event so that I can see at a glance what is on the horizon at school for each of my kids.
I use a large magnetic clip labeled with each child’s name to designate the papers for each child. Once the event has occurred, the paper is immediately recycled, and the reference paper for the next upcoming event appears at the front of the stack.
I don’t advise cluttering up your household reference binder with these types of papers, since they are only relevant for a brief period of time.
I do not suggest incorporating your child’s homework and/or school project papers into your paper management system. Instead, designate a place for each child to keep ongoing homework and project papers that belong to them.
The homework storage container should be close to the area in the home that your child typically completes their homework. You can use a homework inbox, stacking trays, or any type of vertical file sorter with folders.
In my house, we use the Smead Cascading Wall Organizer to store weekly spelling word lists, materials for longer-term projects, passwords for educational apps, etc. The organizers are hung on the wall directly above each child’s desk, which keeps their desk surface uncluttered.
School Paper Keepsakes
Keepsake school papers are a major contributor to household paper clutter in many of the homes I’ve organized. On more than one occasion, I’ve come across homes in which every single school paper that’s been carried home in a backpack has been kept. Yowza.
My first word of advice is to create a set of criteria that you will use to decide what is worthy of keeping and what gets discarded. We will deal with organizing your child’s artwork in Week 5.
For other types of school paper memorabilia, you may decide to keep:
- poems/stories your child has written
- certificates of achievement
- programs for events such as concerts/plays
- special projects they worked on during the school year.
Do yourself a favor and cull out the daily worksheets, quizzes, and tests. These are not the type of papers that your child will be interested in looking at in the future.
To organize what you’ve decided to keep, I suggest one of two methods. Method 1 consists of organizing the papers in labeled hanging files by grade and storing the hanging files in a portable file tote.
Method 2 consists of placing the papers in page protectors and inserting them into a large binder. No matter which method you choose, store the papers in your child’s room so that they can enjoy looking through them.
Summer is the perfect time for getting your school paper system ducks in a row, since the inflow of paper has temporarily halted (woot! woot!). Take advantage of this and set yourself up for success when the new school year begins in just a few months.
If you have not yet read the overview of the challenge, do that first before proceeding to this week’s assignment
Your Assignment for Week 4 – Organizing School Papers
1. Purge any obsolete school-related handy reference papers and place the remaining papers in your household binder
2. Make sure that your action file contains folders for the types of Parent Homework you typically receive from the school; if it does not, create the necessary folders and place in your action file
3. Determine what your system will be for keeping track of papers that contain school event details
4. Designate a location for storing your child’s homework/project papers
5. Create a set of criteria for keeping school paper keepsakes, then sort and purge your collection based on these criteria
6. Select a method for organizing/storing school paper keepsakes and use it to organize your collection
(Steps 5 & 6 may take longer than a week to complete, depending upon the amount of paper in this category, the number of children you have, and their age)
Be sure to share your progress in the blog comments 🙂
This post is part of the 13-Week Summer Shred Paper Declutter Challenge
Just discovered the Challenge? I invite you to read the Challenge Overview post first. You can then begin to work your way through the weekly Challenge assignments below:
Week 1: Mail
Week 2: Handy Reference
Week 3: Long-Term Reference
Week 4: School Papers
Week 5: Kids’ Art
Week 6: Memorabilia
Week 7: Manuals & Warranties
Week 8: Catalogs & Magazines
Week 9: Receipts
Week 10: Business Cards
Week 11: Lists & Notes
Week 12: Recipes
Week 13: Coupons
Happy paper decluttering!
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