Day 27: How To Deal With End Of School Clutter

2,700 things gone, only 7,300 to go

This is a post for all the Mom’s whose kids are about to come home with an entire year of school in a plastic garbage bag.  There are treasures in that bag.  It’s just not easy to identify them in the jumble of half used pencil crayons, old sandwich bags and dog-eared worksheets.

Part of my decluttering has been to go through 3 years of my son’s school stuff.  It’s not easy to decide what to keep when every syllable, every stroke of the paint brush, tugs at the heart-strings.  Still, after only three years in school my son’s accomplishments are taking up two file boxes and one under the bed storage box.  Here’s how I’ve decided what to keep.

First, I have  a rule to only keep original artwork.  That way I keep the things that represent my son best and not a particular teacher’s interpretation of the holidays.

Second, I ask myself which pieces the museum will come looking for when my son becomes a famous artist.  The picasso-esque self-portrait – probably.  The palm print thanksgiving turkey – not so much.

Thirdly, I photograph everything he has written that truly reflects his interests and personality. When he becomes a famous downhill biker, I’ll most certainly want to reflect on his journal entry about his first bike camp.

So this year I’ll try to catch these gems as they enter my house and not toss them into a records box to deal with later.

But there is one more thing in that garbage bag that I’ve never found an appropriate way to handle: half-used school supplies. It must be my Scottish heritage but I could never throw out perfectly decent supplies.  

At our school a lot of the parents order next year’s supplies in May.  Saves us from spending hours in Staples on September 1st debating the merits of Crayola vs. Laurentian.  I’m all for it.  Except that last year’s supplies really aren’t that bad.

There has got to be something better to do with these than toss them in a drawer or the garbage.

There is.  I called a local organization that works with women and children and asked them if they had a need for gently used school supplies.  They do.  Even better, they referred me to one school and two community programs that would be in great need of gently used school supplies to distribute to local families.

It’s a win-win.  I stop 100 more things from entering my house and my kids get to contribute to the community in a very relevant way.  And that’s pretty sweet.

What I tossed today: 100 small plastic toys (mostly donated, a handful of broken pieces tossed).


2 thoughts on “Day 27: How To Deal With End Of School Clutter

  1. I’m quite impressed that you actually have the energy to count each individual thing that you’re purging! I’m counting by the carload. I think it’s about number 10 so far.

    I must say that this post made me chuckle, because one of the things on my “need to deal with it” list is a pile of boxes sitting in my basement filled with school things from my childhood which my mother shipped to me a few years ago when she moved.

    I’m 44. Now, while it is vaguely interesting to see papers that I wrote in the first grade, I must admit that on some level it’s just a giant headache, and I’m sort of tempted to just toss them in the dumpster unopened. If it weren’t for the guilt factor, I’d probably have chucked them 5 years ago when they first arrived.

    So, when considering what to keep and what to toss, you might try to picture your son in his 40’s sitting in the basement of some future home somewhere, faced with the task of sorting through boxes of schoolwork from his childhood… an interesting mental exercise if nothing else!

    • I count loosely and often lose count! Thanks for the tip re: school clutter. I have a box and my husband has several boxes of personal stuff that we are about to go through. It’s amazing what loses relevancy as the years fly by. I will take your advice and try to keep my kids stuff based on what is truly meaningful at 40. I don’t think I thought twice about my primary years when I was in my teens or twenties! Thanks for the comment.

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