School is synonymous with crumpled sheets of paper, often pale green or neon orange and covered with crayon, frequently shoved in the bottom of backpacks and strewn across bedroom floors. As we head into the school year, take a moment to set up a very simple system to instantly make things seem more orderly.
I call it the “school basket” and it can be a tote or a box or even a basket. I happened to have a big, square basket, which was perfect because whatever the container is, it needs to be deep and able to hold letter-sized paper with ease. Lots and lots of letter-sized paper.
Every time you get a “Friday folder” full of schoolwork, or you clean out your kids’ backpack so they can squeeze the zipper shut, take all the work your kid has done and put it in the school basket. At the end of the year, empty it all into the recycling.
Why does this work?
- It’s easy. In an ideal world, you’d go through the papers with your kid and discuss/admire but in reality, that doesn’t happen much past the first few weeks of kindergarten. This is a way to keep all the papers ready so if your kid decides they want to show you something, or need to revisit their notes about multiplying fractions, they know exactly where to find anything.
- It’s reassuring. Some kids worry about losing work they might need to refer to again. Somehow they feel that if it’s wedged behind the dresser or buried among a pile of toys in the back of the cupboard, that’s better than the nightmare of having to ask for another copy of the paper. This way, they know exactly where to look. The archaeological dig to find a paper becomes easy since it’s all in there in roughly chronological order.
- All homework papers go in the basket.
- The basket must be deep enough! If it starts to overflow, it’ll just be like those pathetic cans outside the store, overflowing with trash because they don’t get emptied often enough and acting as a magnet for trash (i.e. papers) to be scattered all over the floor.
- Ceremoniously empty the basket at the end of the school year. Done!
Next time: how to organize kids’ artwork and other treasures. Spoiler alert: there’ll be no scrapbooking tips.
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