I can hardly believe it, but my eldest daughter starts KINDERGARTEN on Monday. Cue emotions, tears and frequent trips down memory lane. In addition to buying supplies, clothes and getting ourselves mentally prepared for school mode, it has also been the week to make all the decisions on details for the guest house. So, it's been full-on but I think we are finally ready for Monday!
I remember last year when my girl started going to preschool multiple days a week, I quickly felt overwhelmed with the sheer volume of paper and artwork that was being brought home each day. It became something I dreaded rather than something I found joy in. So I decided to work out a system to help me keep on top of all the incoming paper. That way, I can be free to enjoy all the sweet creations she brings home.
So, here's the system I use in my home to keep on top of the paper clutter that comes into my home from school:
STEP ONE: UNLOAD
The first thing to do is to create a place for setting down the papers as soon as you get in through the door. I repurposed a cart that I had been using for art supplies and put it in our mudroom. (I found it at World Market and I know both Target and IKEA have a similar version.)
This way, when we walk through the door and everyone is tired/hungry/sweaty, I can just pop all the papers straight into the cart. Then I can just forget about it until I want to deal with it, whilst knowing it's in its designated spot. For me, this is a mental lifesaver. There is just something so anxiety inducing about a growing pile of papers on a countertop — amiright? But, if I know they are in the place where they belong, I don't worry about it at all, even if I haven't had a chance to look through them yet.
STEP TWO: SORT
Ideally, you need to sort through the papers at least weekly, or even on a daily basis to avoid them piling up out of control. But this is totally a personal choice — you might be a little-and-often kind of person, or you might deal better with blasting it in one big go. When I started using this system, I committed to sorting through all the papers every day. If I skipped a day — no big deal.
So, first, I go through and pull out the important forms or papers and put those into my paperwork tray to be dealt with at another time.
Then I recycle anything that isn't worth keeping. I'm just not one of those mamas who keeps everything their children make a mark on. My kids produce waaaay too much stuff. I do try and keep some of the more natural doodles and scribbles though — to remind me of all the different drawing phases they go through.
STEP THREE: DISPLAY
Once I have put aside the important papers, and disposed of the junk, I display the remainder on a board that we DIY-ed from pegboard and 1x2s. I would do a tutorial, but frankly, I'm not sure it's worthy of that! It is literally held together with gorilla glue so who knows how long it will stay in tact — but for now it does a great job of covering up our ugly electrical box and gives us a place to showcase our kids' most recent work.
Any kind of display board would work for this — just make sure you get one with plenty of room so that you don't have to empty the board too often. My pegboard has huge clips which hold many papers at once.
Here are a few of my favorites from other blogs:
STEP FOUR: ARCHIVE
When the board has reached capacity, I take everything down and file away my favorites in these huge portfolios — one per child. Let me tell you, they are HUGE and you can fit a lot in them.
I also put in their school photos and any letters, notes or memories that might be fun to look back on. Anything I don't use in the portfolios gets put in the mail for the grandparents — they love receiving our leftovers!
Now, I should probably state at this point that scrapbooking is not my love language. I simply do not have the gifting, time, or energy to do it justice. But I can use a glue stick, and this is literally all the skill that is required. I wanted this to be a quick and simple way for me to keep everything documented and in one place, without it becoming yet-another-big-project-to-complete. So if you are put off this because it seems like too much to keep up with — don't be! It takes me maybe an hour tops to update the portfolios every few months.
The beauty of this system is that it really doesn't take take much time to maintain once you implement it. This used to be something that I got bogged down in, and now I just rely on the system and know that when my kids are older and ask me where their Kindergarten artwork is, I will know exactly where to find it! And that, for me, is a mom-win.
How do you get prepared for the school year? Any tips for a first time school mama? I'd love to hear how you keep on top of the kid clutter in your home!