Summer is almost halfway over, and the kids are getting a little bored (maybe you are too?). So here is a fun activity for this week: Start sorting through all the art work, paperwork, binders, and school supplies that has accumulated over the past school year. You know, the stuff that is sitting on desktops, kitchen counters, and bedroom floors that you have been looking at and not knowing what to do with.
Start by sorting all the items into separate piles of books, school supplies, and papers. Put the books your younger children will use later onto one bookshelf. Throw out the nubby pencils with broken erasers, the dried-out markers, and the dull scissors. Put the good supplies in a bag to be sorted and distributed into next year’s supply boxes. And now for the mountain of papers…
Find a box or a large envelope and label it with your child’s name, grade, and year. (Trust me, you will have a hard time remembering the year your child was in each grade!) Now, start looking at each piece of paper, and keep your very favorite ones. No, they can’t all be your favorite ones. The printout where your kindergartner circled all the words that start with the letter T? You can let that one go. The paper where your child listed everything they love about their family? Yeah, that’s a keeper. The math sheet where your third grader got every answer right? You can probably let that one go. The spelling test where your child spelled most words incorrectly, but the misspellings are really funny? Another keeper!
If you create one box for each child for each grade, including the preschool years, by the time they graduate elementary and middle school you will have…a lot of boxes! And all the boxes will be put into your attic, or your garage, or your closet, where they will stay until you finally notice them again. Like I did last summer, when I moved from my home of 28 years, and where I had stored my children’s school papers for two decades.
I happily opened my daughter’s Kindergarten box, sorted through it, and kept a total of 3 papers. I then asked her if she wanted to see the rest. Her response was a hearty laugh. So into the recycle bin it went. Then I opened her box of 7th grade papers, and quickly realized that 7th papers are not nearly as cute as Kindergarten papers. (No offense to any seventh grade parents reading this!) With my daughter’s permission, the entire box went into the bin without a single one being kept.
One treasure I found was a thin box with over 2 dozen large drawings made by my children. I had not seen some of them in over 20 years. Pulling out my cell phone, I took a photo of each one. And then yes, into the recycle bin it went. It felt a little funny to do that, but I have now looked at those photos more times than I ever looked at the actual drawings.
I realized that, like you, I kept the school work and art projects with the expectation that I would want to see them again, and that my children would want to see them again. The lesson I learned was that while it WAS fun to see some of them again, I had kept way too many and really did not need to see ALL of them again. And I also learned that my adult children had zero interest in seeing them. You and your future adult children may be different, but my advice is that “less is more”.