Taming the Paper Monster

Well, here we are in the midst of summer with last year’s school projects just a distant memory. That is until you come upon the large plastic bag or satchel that your child hauled home on the last day of school.

How is it possible that so much stuff could be crammed into that bag? And how has it been hiding in plain sight all these weeks, just waiting to jump out and surprise you with another task to be taken care of?

Really, it seems as if kids are constantly producing school papers and projects-which is a good thing. It means learning is happening. But this process of “knowledge in-projects out” can leave a family with an abundance of school papers piled high or crammed into boxes with the hope of sorting through them some day.

I often thought about that when, as a school secretary, kids would come to me looking for another bag to haul “stuff” home from their locker. I thought it would be interesting to follow one child’s locker remnants at the end of the year.

Once the bag got home, what happened? Were the items carefully sorted, culled and stored? Was the bag put into storage, as is? Did the entire bag get put out for garbage collection the next week? Or did the bag go missing in plain sight, only to be stumbled upon in mid-summer by an unsuspecting parent?

I’m a bit embarrassed to admit that just recently I came across a large black garbage bag carefully tied and forgotten in a corner of our garage attic. When I opened it I found a poster board chart documenting the development of mosquito larvae in pond water.

It was a great project my daughter did when she was about 11 years old. The embarrassing fact is that she’s now 37 years old! Honestly, I don’t know how that thing escaped notice all these years.

I also don’t know how it “made the cut” as something to be saved, whereas other projects that seemed just as interesting found their way to the garbage bin. So that got me wondering just how a parent decides what to keep and what to discard.

I guess a lot depends on whether you (or your child) are sentimental about memories, accomplishments, a job particularly well done, etc. Also, how much room do you have for storage? Of course, these are only a couple of the important criteria you’ll want to use when you start working through the stacks of school papers.

Are you wondering just how to build your complete criteria list for what to keep and what to recycle? I wish I personally had a treasure trove of answers for you. But, considering I just found a long forgotten (26 years!) school project, obviously I am clueless on how to go about taming the school project monster.

In doing a Google search, I found the treasure trove of answers I was wishing for. Obviously, having to deal with school paper glut is a problem experienced by many parents.

I found suggestions that ran the gambit from going digital to packing things in bins. (Note: I failed to find any that suggested stashing bags in the corner of the attic!) And I thought they were all good suggestions, although some would work better for me than others because of my organizational style. I suspect it will be the same for you.

But, no matter what your organizational style, I hope that you will find some ideas that really ring true for you. You can start gleaning suggestions here at the Sunny Side Up blog site. I love the way that the kids’ artwork is displayed around the house and the numerous ideas suggested for handling the paper/project overload.

Next, mosey on over to iHeartOrganizing for a nice guide on setting up a hanging file system for each of your kids. Or, you can start a bit smaller with a 3-ring binder- choose what works best for you.

I found these sites to be extremely helpful because they not only had suggestions, but the suggestions were illustrated with photos. I definitely learn best that way!

If you work better from lists, here are two sites that offer tips in a list format. The first site, Power of Moms, shows the tips in a video and also in a written list. The other site, Home Your Way, provides a nice concise list of how to deal with school papers.

So, that’s it for today. I hope that you can find some information here that really resonates with you and helps you wade through the school papers that accumulated last year. If you’ve already dealt with that issue, congratulations! You get to put your feet up and sip a tall glass of iced tea just a little sooner than the rest of us.

In closing, here’s to a week of fun times with your kids and some happy paper-organizing-hours squeezed in between!  Hope to see you back here again soon.


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