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Published May 15, 2012, 04:26 PM

Areavoices: Help! What do I do with those school papers?

The school bell will soon ring for the last time until this fall. Desks will be cleaned; paper clutter will be brought home.

By: Melissa Schmalenberger, Areavoices blogger, INFORUM

The school bell will soon ring for the last time until this fall. Parents everywhere are dreading the day that their child will clean out their desk and bring home the contents of their desk. Parents are often overwhelmed as they just are not so sure what they should keep so they hit their default button and keep everything. Follow these simple tips and you soon will have a manageable system that will make sense to you and better yet, you will keep your sanity.

Paper Clutter:

1. First realize that you can’t and they can’t keep everything. Plus your child needs to realize that you can’t keep every scrap of paper that they ever wrote on.

2. Keep important testing scores and other papers stored in its own file. Examples of this would be the state testing and other mandated benchmarks for learning.

3. If a child has an IEP, place these papers in its own file. I have children with learning disabilities and I need to track their progress in order to get the needed services. I keep all the papers that I need for this in one spot.

4. Keep in mind that not everything has the same value. A child’s first drawing does not have the same sentimental value that the 100th or 200th drawing. Keep the special ones. Don’t let the special ones get lost in the stacks of papers. Use this test, “Does it bring a tear to my eye?” If not, get rid of it.

5. The amount of paper coming into the home decreased once a child hits middle school. For my boys in high school I haven’t seen paper from them in years. So get through those elementary school years and you are home free.

6. Use a vertical file to keep the papers in either monthly or yearly. Purge on a regular basis as 80% of what you file you will never look at again. Find a vertical file and create files for each grade that they are in. As the school years go on, you simply drop in the papers that you are keeping in the file and when the end of the school year ends you are already done and organized.

7. Have a system in place for papers for mom/dad to look at and to decide if something needs to be signed and returned back to school.

8. If the parents are divorced, figure out a system of sharing the school papers. As a divorce attorney, I found that if parents could keep good lines of communication going on some of the simple things, it makes the co-parenting journey a smooth one. Schedule regular exchanges of information with each other. Don’t use the child to transport the papers. With the use of smart phones you can simply snap a picture of the time sensitive material and text it to the other parent. Keep the line of communication open and your child will thank you.

9. Have an area of your home where the VIP (very important papers) are kept and looked at every day. Your child will know what you needs your urgent attention. Have them be responsible and have them place those papers in the VIP spot. It is not too early to teach responsibility.

10. Create an in/out system so that the kids know to look in the file as well. If there are papers that they need to take back to school, that is where you place them.

Remember, it is not your job to keep every piece of paper that comes into the home. Create your system that works for your family by implementing some of my tips above and watch the paper become much more manageable.

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