On the last day of school each year my kids come home with backpacks overflowing with work. This is what it looked like when I had one child in Prep (first year of school) and the other in Grade Two:

End of year school work for two children

I didn’t take a photo of the amount that came home this year (one in Grade One and the other in Grade Three) but I was able to deal with it swiftly because I’ve worked out what is meaningful to keep (for us) and how to reuse or recycle the rest.

I should also give credit to our waste wise school teachers because they don’t go nuts with a laminator or glitter and they often reuse recyclable materials for projects which means there is less waste to dispose of. They also do most of the work in determining which pieces of work are worthy of keeping by sending home a portfolio of work samples and an explanation of what each sample represents.

I haven’t always been good at making decisions about school papers and art work, though – mine or the kid’s. I was about 30 when I finally let go of boxes and boxes of school work from primary school through to university, and when my first born was in kindergarten (pre-school) I began keeping all his art and craft projects too! The clutter drove me mental. Gradually though, through various attempts to clean up, I learned which things were worth hanging onto and the Kindergarten teacher gave me a tip to take photos of the ‘grand masterpieces’ so that we still had the memories without the clutter. This definitely helped.


1. Determine what to keep

Earlier this week I saw a post from Interior Philosophy which is a very good summary of what I have learned to do over the years to make decisions about what school work to keep. Here is what Tania recommends, which works for me too:

For me, the point of completing school work is for the child to gain the knowledge, skills and experience; it’s not the pieces of paper themselves. Therefore the benefit and outcome of completing the tasks have already been achieved.

However, there are certain pieces of work and artwork which are special, and these are worth recording either by keeping as a hard copy in a specially designated area such as file or special box, or taking a photo and storing digitally.

The rule of thumb I like to use is KEEP when:
1. The work shows a very large development leap
2. the work is very personal in nature
3. An exceptional amount of effort over a prolonged period of time has been used
I find that around 5 pieces per child per year is more than sufficient.”

I actually keep the portfolios from school and occasionally add a few other pieces from the art folder or workbooks that have personal meaning to us, so we keep more than five pieces of work but it is in one neat folder which is acceptable to me. I also take things out of the portfolios when I can’t see why we would want to look back on it.

The work is then kept in our ‘special things’ boxes; these are repurposed boxes, for instance, the silver boxes contained my wedding flowers 10 years ago. We each have one box stored on the top shelf of our wardrobe.

Special Things Boxes

2. Reuse and recycle the rest

Next, all unwanted art and craft projects are disassembled into parts and added to our craft supplies. If this ever starts to become unmanageable I will offer it back to the school or kindergarten or another appropriate place.

I take the used pages out of work books to recycle them and keep the blank pages for home writing and drawing. I can’t even remember the last time we bought paper, we just continue to use the left overs from school.

At our school, when the kids are in junior grades they share class sets of pencils, rulers, erasers, glue sticks, scissors, etc., so there is nothing else to sort at home apart from a couple of laminated name tags that go into the waste bin.

However, being in Grade three, my son has returned home with a pencil case full of this stuff and I am concerned that I am expected to buy these items new each year as part of our standard book packs, when they could continue to be used at school. We are using these items at home at the moment but I need to find out more about the situation and my rights. But that’s a blog post for another day.


5 thoughts

  1. We take photos of all our daughter’s art, and even scan schoolwork that shows developmental advancement. Then we will print a photo book when she finishes school. That way she has ONE thing to keep track of. Ha! I have no significant attachment to my work from when I was a child, and I have a feeling their generation won’t either (due to all the the screens, ect.) So holding onto it IMO just takes up un-needed space.
    No papers at all. We are even scanning certain award certificates, etc. You know the ones that are just the teacher written. Not the embossed, fancy ones. =)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think you’re probably right, and I’m conscious of not making it an issue for them. Whenever I check with my eldest about whether he wants to keep a piece of work he says “no!” Very definitively, so I recycle it. My daughter, on the other hand, does like to keep things, so it’s a little bit more of a process with her.


  2. The thing that has got to me since my kids started school is the expectation to have a new school bag, lunch box and drink bottle every year, no matter what the condition of the existing ones. One of my daughters came home very upset at the start of last year because the other kids kept asking why she didn’t have a new school bag. We rode it out but this year and have come to an agreement that every second year will do for us. It’s hard for the kids though.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh really, that’s hard. I’m glad that’s not an issue at our school, maybe because there’s only about 80 different families and we all know each other. Ours is also a farming community that values resourcefulness and making things last, however my kids (and I’m sure others) still occasionally want the latest thing that someone else has. That’s good that you’ve made an agreement with your daughters.


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