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Our Solution for Schoolwork Clutter

Oh my friends, it has begun. Teachers are sending all the schoolwork from the year home with the kids.

Monday is was a file of worksheets with various stickers and notes in the margins.  Wednesday it was tests and reports. Friday, oh Friday was the most terrifying of all… artwork.

That’s right, ten months of art— construction-papered, elmer-glued, magic-markered art work.

All lovingly planned and executed by their teachers, I am sure, but as the kids announced they got their art work back, I had visions of my kitchen table COVERED with papers from the school.

Like most mothers, I “Ooh” and “Ahh” while the kids are presenting them to me as if they are pulling out golden eggs from a potato sack and not nightmarish cluttered from a mildew-smelling knapsack, because it is our divine responsibility to feign enthusiasm.

But when they run off watch yet another episode of Steven Universe, I trash them. With glee.

I mean, I try to recycle what I can, but when in doubt I throw it out.

That is until I was caught by my daughter, Trinity.

I was cleaning the kitchen and came across the pile of worksheets and without a second thought moved them from the table to the recycling bin and you would have thought I desecrated a teen beat poster of Justin Bieber the way that child shrieked and ratted me out to her brothers.

Our solution for schoolwork clutter

I realized at that moment that I needed to come up with a plan to manage the end-of-the-year schoolwork deluge, because my ear drums can only handle so much tween screeching.


Here are three strategies to manage the end-of-the-year schoolwork clutter:

1. Let the kids have input.

Really, all the caterwauling was because Trinity was caught by surprise.

So, I called the kids into the kitchen and explained that I hate clutter. Clutter makes me feel anxious and discontent with our home.

Also, starting the summer off with a huge mess accelerated the cabin fever so, they had two choices: sit with me and decide what to do with the work or release me to discard as I see fit.

Only one kid cared— Trinity. The boys were fairly chill about the schoolwork.

2. Make three piles.

Trinity and I went through the work and created three piles.

One was discard: shocker of all shockers most of the worksheets and tests when into this pile.

Two was keep/display: these were the art pieces she was most proud of or she designed specifically for her room.

And the third pile was give-away: pieces I couldn’t bear throwing away because of the quality of the work, but didn’t fit on our fridge.

Our solution for schoolwork clutter

3. Give away.

Most of our extended family and good friends do not live in California and I’ve often struggled with how to stay in touch in real life apart.

Social media is helpful for current updates, but relationships are built on tangible expressions of our commitment to each other.

My daughter and I looked over the items in the give away pile and designated a family member to receive it.

Once we had a plan in place, the hard part was enacting it.  Hence the piles on the kitchen table.

So, first thing this morning, Trinity and I went to my favorite office supply store with the pieces we wanted to mail to make sure we were purchasing the right size envelopes, addressed them, wrote little notes to the recipients and put them in the mail.

I’ve also heard that snapping pictures and storing them on the phone is helpful to store art work.

My phone is constantly griping at me because I nearing my storage limit, so that doesn’t work for me.

For now, I’m really enjoying how this practice of simplifying our clutter and staying connected to the people is making me feel more in control these last few days of school.

Reading Time:

3 minutes





  1. lee

    I don’t have children, but have heard from many friends of the struggle they experience with the keep/discard decision with their children’s school materials.

    You mentioned that storing pictures of your artwork on your phone wasn’t something that worked – that reminded me of a trick some of my friends use, to store the pictures in Shutterfly (or you could use a Google drive folder, even a Facebook folder). A couple of them go a step further, and create photo books in Shutterfly, with all of the pictures from one year in a book; but if you’re reducing the amount of stuff in your house, that probably wouldn’t be as reasonable an option.

    • Kim

      That’s exactly what I do. I scan all the artwork with a cheap little scanning app on my phone, upload it all into Shutterfly, then recycle it. After a couple years, I create a portfolio book for my son (which he LOVES) of all his artwork from that time period – Preschool, grades K-2, grades 3-5, etc. He also keeps his favorites for display in his room – two nice matted frames from the “best” artwork and an IKEA curtain wire with clips installed across the top of one wall. His own personal art gallery. Works like a charm. Oh, and I agree…I send some to family across the miles. 😉

  2. Liza

    My kids have had excellent art teachers, which means they come home with some excellent art. I frame the best of it and hang it on my walls. Other neat things they’ve drawn or written go in a file cabinet. Each child has their own file folder. When they were younger, they cared a lot more so I let them keep some in a box and I filed some and the rest was thrown out. About once a year, we’d go through their boxes and see what they still wanted. After a few years, there was practically nothing left in the boxes. Now, they just let me keep what I want and gleefully throw the rest away.

  3. Heidi

    A friend made a comment about keeping school work that has always stuck with me. She said she only keeps work that reveals something about her child’s personality. So no standard worksheets, no perfect attendance certificates, no mass-produced sheep masks. But essays, personally significant art, that kind of thing gets kept. It’s been incredibly helpful to me when I’m standing over the recycling bin on a Friday afternoon!

    • Amber

      Thanks Heidi! Good insight.

      • Emilie Blanchette

        That’s close to what guides me, too. I tend to keep essays, short stories, and the art pieces where they’ve applied themselves (as opposed to rushing through it).

        For the textbooks or homework, we keep a sample to burn in a fire at the start of summer. The kids LOVE dumping their homework in the fire and watch it burn away, lol!!

        Kind of a tradition from my youth, as we’d do this with a bonfire on a national holiday at the start of summer. We even had a mini-firework that was a burning school, oops, hehe!

  4. Emily Brown

    I LOVE the idea to send artwork to friends and family! That way they can see some of what my kids are creating…and then do what they want with it! On your note, do you let them know it is okay to throw the artwork away when they are ready? I worry that I’ll be putting some burden or expectation on them of keeping the artwork indefinitely, while I’m hoping they’ll just enjoy it for a bit. However, I guess sending artwork regularly would help ensure it gets into a regular rotation? I know my kids would be thrilled to mail art to my parents, and my parents would be thrilled to display it for a while. 🙂

  5. Jamie

    Love this – especially sending the artwork to loved ones far away.

    A suggestion for the phone storage — I use Google Photos (app) and have it set to automatically backup to Drive when the phone is on WIFI. It makes it super easy to free up space (like, the click of a button), and it’s nice to know that there’s a backup of the many photos I take.

  6. Linda Sand

    Our daughter is probably older than most of you but we still have her handprints done in finger paints and a few of her poems written in elementary school. Like Heidi said above only those things that truly reflect her.

  7. Abbie

    “… because it is our divine responsibility to feign enthusiam.”
    Ha. Snort. And Amen! My brother (childless bachelor) once complimented me on my (faked) enthusiasm for whatever the child was telling me.

  8. Lauren Santerre

    OMG I love this blog so much. My husband and I don’t have any kids yet but we have already started planning for this eventuality. Both of us HATE clutter too and aren’t super excited about “artwork” being everywhere. We’ve started hatching a plan to have a designated display space in an extra bedroom. And I ‘m thinking a rule of you can keep “x” # of things and if you want to replace them the old ones have to go. I mean I am sure there will be a couple of gems we want to keep and frame, etc…but overall…WE NEED A PLAN! Anyhoo, just thought I would add an “I hear you” to this feed!

  9. Amber

    If you can’t bring yourself to throw anything away yet because it all seems too precious, the. you MUST put it all in one place, and write the date on it. Then a few months later you will have amazing perspective and can sort and decide much, much easier.

  10. Annelise

    LOVE this idea! Doing it this week! Thanks!

  11. Anna Brown

    Thank you this is sooo helpful ?

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