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How to Simplify Back-to-School Papers

If you’re a busy parent like me, you know that “back to school” often means “back to tons of paper.” 🤦‍♀️ (Kudos to the educators, though… I’ve noticed a HUGE difference in the amount of paper my kids bring home since the onset of the pandemic. Good job going digital, guys!)

Yet for many parents–especially those with younger kids who often generate more paper-based schoolwork–managing the paperwork that comes with back-to-school is a straight-up struggle.

As a former teacher, I completely understand that paper handouts and notebooks are often vital tools in helping children learn. Online learning tools are awesome, but they’re often no substitute for paper and pencil when it comes to learning a new skill. (In fact, I’m a paper-based note-taker myself because I learn much better when I physically engage in the note-taking process.)

But just because paper is sometimes great does NOT mean that we, as parents, need to keep all of it in tubs in the attic until our kids have kids of their own. (No judgment here… We’ve all been there!)

If you’d like to a strategy to declutter, simplify, and organize the school paperwork coming into your home, you’re in the right place because today I’m sharing the paperwork management system I’ve used ever since my kids were wee first graders!

If you’re a visual learner, watch this video I made a several years ago, which walks you step-by-step through my school paperwork management process.. 👇

If you’re more of a reader, read on!

First things first, you’ve gotta face this beast head on. As soon as the backpack crosses the threshold, fish out the papers and divide them into three types:


You’re familiar with this. Permission slips, field trip forms, etc. Deal with these immediately or put them in your own inbox to deal with later.  


This could be nightly homework, spelling words to study for the week, a handout detailing the due dates and checkpoints for a large research project, etc. Designate an area for your child to put all this stuff so it stays together. I recommend a letter tray with their name on it that’s placed in a highly visual area.


Ah, this is the tricky one! Especially for those of you with young ones. The amount of sticker-starred worksheets and turkey hands a kid can bring home in those early years is truly staggering.

How do I recommend dealing with this?


Look at it all, comment on how much your child is learning and how creative this work is, and then…

Hand it to her and say these magic 8 words:

“What would YOU like to do with it?”

I’m a big fan of kids learning to take responsibility for their own paperwork. Just because you’re the mom does not mean that you’re somehow the de-facto decision maker on your child’s every worksheet and art project. Giving your kids the choice of what to do with their own school paperwork teaches them responsibility and BIG BONUS… It relieves you of any guilt associated with keeping or not keeping their papers!

But of course, if you’re going to give your child a decision, you’ve got to give them some options.

Good options for kids when deciding what to do with their own paperwork include:

  • Recycle (Strongly encouraged!)
  • Display wall (Get yourself some Command strips, twine, and clothespins and hook it up!)
  • Digital photo
  • Memory box (This is a last resort for the really, really special stuff that can’t be captured digitally. Note: Your child should keep the memory box for themselves. These are not your memories, parents!)  

I hope this helps you busy parents ease some of the stress of back-to-school and enjoy this time with your kids a bit more!

And hey, if nobody’s told you yet today… You’re doing a really great job. 😊

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PS: If you’re a busy working mom who wants to declutter your home, simplify your work-life, and calm your mind… Sign up for my FREE 30-Day Simplicity Challenge!

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