Updated: Mar 19, 2021
If you have children living at home, you are bound to have tons of paper coming in on a daily basis. Much of this paper, especially in the early years, we categorize as “sentimental items“ and we keep collecting them, all the while complaining about it. Even a “notorious declutterer” can have a hard time getting rid of the kids’ precious work, especially if you try to make that decision on the spot, i.e. when the item arrives. There are several ways to solve this problem though.
First, let’s look at the categories of paper our kids usually bring home and how to deal with each category:
1) School/kindergarten notes (consent forms to be signed, upcoming events) - this is the easiest, deal with it straight away and send back to school or bin. Luckily, much of this now comes digitally, but is always best dealt with immediately.
2) Art work or cards made for them by friends/family - this may sound brutal, but unless it’s a very special person/close friend, bin it (you may want to wait a few weeks if your child is not ready to part just yet, but do get back to it). For special items, see point 5.
3) Homework or other school work - depending on your school system, upload it, send it back in their folders, stick into their notebooks, etc. After months of homeschooling, it is also totally OK to get rid of it.
4) Certificates of achievement - file or frame
5) Art work, special projects or any other memorabilia they make or get
Sometimes, you may choose to display the artwork for a while and if you do, make sure you have a dedicated space for that, do not end up having kids stuff take over your whole house. This will allow you to have, for example, a wall, board or wire where you/they hang their drawings, but when the space is full, it’s time to curate it and remove the old to make space for the new. Add the date, age and name. Let’s be honest, not everything will or should go on display, though. What I have found to work best, is to have a small box or folder for each child, where you/they put their art work. Every time a paper comes home, it goes either on display or into that box, it should be easily accessible to the kids too. I would then typically only look at this box once a year around their birthdays. That way, the difficult decisions need to be made only once, and when you have to choose your favorites from 50 drawings, it’s a lot easier to do.
If you are a person who cannot part with any of it and prefers to keep everything, well, then it’s all already boxed up for you, so you just label the box and start over. But remember, one day you will pass all this on to your kids, try not to overwhelm them.
Other things you can do with art work: gift them to grandparents or godparents, scan them and create photobooks, send them as digital post cards - there are many apps for that, create a classic scrapbook.
So now, go around the house and gather all your kids paper (involve the kids too if you can/wish), categorise everything into piles as per points 1-5 above and in less then an hour you will have made huge progress!
When decluttering your kids’ paper always remember:
IF EVERYTHING IS SPECIAL, NOTHING IS SPECIAL.