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Back-to-School Organizing Tips: How to Tackle Paperwork from School

09/04/2012 11:24 PM | Anonymous

by Amy Rehkemper of Simplify Organizing

Class work, homework, permission slips … OH MY

Medical forms, event reminders, class schedules … OH MY

PTA letters, progress reports, artwork … OH MY

Toto, we aren’t on summer break anymore; it’s BACK-TO-SCHOOL! 

If you are the parent of a school-aged child, you are probably not surprised by the truckload of paper that is systematically dumped on your kitchen counter every Monday-Friday via your child’s backpack. However, this year you are going to be armed and ready when it comes. Here are some back-to-school tips to help parents tame the paper beast!  


One of the best routines that you can establish with your child is to sit down with them for just 2-5 minutes every single school day and empty the contents of their backpack. Ideally this would be done immediately upon their returning home from school, or for working parents, schedule this meeting directly after dinner. For kids who resist the idea, or just have trouble sitting still, couple this “parent pow-wow” with their after-school snack time. If you are a working parent, schedule this over dessert. 

So what happens at this Mommy meeting (or Daddy date)? Decide which papers need your attention, what’s due tomorrow, and what to do with all the artwork and/or completed class work. By tackling the avalanche of paper each and every day, clutter doesn’t build and important papers don’t go MIA. A surprise perk to this meeting is the opportunity to sneak in some questions about their day and to stay abreast of what’s happening for them emotionally and socially, as well as academically.


Do you want a STAR STUDENT? Well then, use the STAR Method for de-cluttering the myriad of paper that comes home from school. You can find solace in the fact that there are actually only FOUR possibilities for what to do with school paper:


S - Save It

For the items kept purely for the sentimental value, know your end goal. If a specific purpose is not known, couldn’t everything that comes home be deemed worthy of saving? Ask yourself, will you be creating a scrapbook for every grade completed, or combining all their elementary best into a K-5 memory book, or maybe you only plan to keep one art portfolio for all their greatest academic achievements.  By knowing your end goal, it is easier to make a decision about what papers should be saved and the best method for storing them.   

Many parents of preschool through elementary-aged children love using their refrigerator, or a large bulletin board to temporarily display art work and A+ papers.  However, I recommend what I believe is a far better-looking and space-saving way to display your children’s masterpieces: make a wall of fame with frames!

Image courtesy dynamicframes.com

Check out the Lil Davinci® Art Cabinet from Dynamic Frames. This is such a clever and useful product.  It looks like an ordinary frame, but wait… the front is on a hinge, so you can effortlessly open it to display your child’s works of art. The art can be changed daily, weekly, seasonally, whatever you and your child decide. This product can also STORE up to 50 pages!  So, not only is it a way to show-off your child’s masterpieces, all of it can LIVE inside the frame too; no filing or piling needed.

At the end of every school year, clear out everything in the frame. Conveniently, it will already be in reverse chronological order. You can then pare it down to the 5, 10 or 20 items that best reflect your child for that grade.

T - Toss It

It is an important life-lesson for your child to learn that not every single thing they do needs to be kept.  The most important part of their school work was their experience creating it, not the experience of watching it collect dust. 

Hold your “Backpack Attack” meeting next to a recycling can to ease the act of purging paper.  If too much paper is kept, you will dilute the enjoyment and appreciation of the truly superior accomplishments.  Plus, you are already honoring your child’s finest work (by placing it in an art portfolio, frame or scrapbook). By highlighting the BEST, it’s easier to eliminate the REST!

A- Act On It

  1. DEAL WITH ACTION PAPERS ASAP!  I always say, “Do it now… or suffer later.” The longer you wait to complete a task, the harder it will become and the more you will procrastinate. Don’t chance losing the item, or forgetting the details involved in the task, carve out 15 minutes/day to complete school-related action items.
  2. KEEP ACTION PAPERS SEPARATE. Think of action items as the top dog of the pack.  They should never mingle or intermix with reference paper or memorabilia. Keep them separate from everything else and be sure it is given a special, consistent home. You might designate a wall pocket, inbox tray, or bulletin board exclusively dedicated to items that require action. The only rule is that you must check these action bins daily to make sure nothing is over-looked.

R- Refer To It Later

Kids (mostly upper grades) will need a place to put non-action papers deemed useful for later reference. Set-up a student archive file! Place colorful hanging files in a file crate or conveniently-located file drawer, assigning one file for each class or subject, and then label the tabs accordingly.  Place any class work that could be used for test review and you have a convenient “go-to” for study time.


Moral of the story? Don’t let a day pass by without a stealthy attack on the backpack! If you use the STAR method of de-cluttering school papers, you and your child will be sure to have a more organized, stress-free and successful school year.

© 2012 Amy Rehkemper, CPO® Simplify Organizing®, LLC. All Rights Reserved. 

Amy is the owner of Simplify Organizing, LLC®, a mother of two, and holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Elementary Education. She was in the inaugural class of Certified Professional Organizers® and twice featured on HGTV’s “Mission: Organization.”  Since 1999, she has offered residential de-cluttering and organizing services to create stress-free spaces for busy families. 

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