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Go Ask Mom

Raleigh Green Gables: What to do with all that schoolwork

Posted October 6, 2015
Updated October 8, 2015

Editor's Note: Does your kitchen counter feature a pile of school work from just the first few weeks of school? Leah Friedman, a mom of two and owner of Raleigh Green Gables, gives you permission to dump most of it.

Just before school started in August, my daughter and I went through old artwork from school and tossed what she did not want. We ended up getting rid of about two-thirds of her art pile.

We did it to prepare for the upcoming school year. My daughter loves making art, so I know more work will be coming home! And, guess what? My daughter was perfectly fine watching it all go into the recycling bin.

Schools send home a ton of paper from tests to art to worksheets. And for some reason, many parents feel guilty about recycling it. I would invite you to stop the guilty feelings. Your kids don’t need all that paper. Your house, which is already overflowing in stuff, does not need it.

Plus, old paper grows mildew. Yuck!

Think about this: Do you have papers from your school days? I am going to guess most will say no. (At least, I hope so.) And, look at you. You’ve turned out perfectly OK without having your second grade spelling tests.

If you recycle/toss all those papers from school, your kids will be just fine, too. Trust me. They may even thank you one day when they are cleaning out the house, so you can downsize!

I am not saying throw out everything. If there is a piece of art your child is particularly proud of, keep it. I framed several pieces of art created by my children and hung it in their rooms. It makes for cute and cheap decorations.

I also keep a pile of small, card-like artwork. My children then give them to friends as birthday cards. They write a sweet message and put their name on it, and voila! -- as Fancy Nancy would say -- you never have to buy a birthday card for a child’s party.

As for the schoolwork, I have ONE plastic bin for each child where I keep significant work such as a journal where they wrote about their summer vacation. I think that will be funny to read with them when they are 18 and headed off to college. (I may make them take the bin with them to their dorm, and they can decide whether to keep it or throw it out.)

But they only get ONE bin for all 12 years of school. If we get to fourth grade, and it’s full, that means we will revisit and thin it out to make sure 11th grade calculus tests with perfect scores will fit.

So stop feeling guilty about throwing out school papers. That is a story you have made up in your head. It’s time to respect your children and honor their work by recycling most of it and keeping only important items in ONE bin.

Leah is the mom of two, professional organizer and owner of Raleigh Green Gables.

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  • tonyc3742 Oct 7, 2015

    It does add up, doesn't it? I usually don't even consider keeping "rote" schoolwork like math tests. That's not very personal and won't tell me much when I look at it again in a couple years. I do consider keeping the more creative stuff - artwork, stories, sometimes written papers; those show a lot more of what my son was like at the time he wrote those and what was in his head. I keep it to one file cabinet folder, one bin, and one wall (to display the art).