As the end of the school year approaches, I hear some parents worry about what to do with the big shopping bag of stuff that comes home on the last day. One Mom has a system: it all goes into the attic next to the other bags from previous years. “I will let them decide when they are older.” Another Mom has a different system: “My kid shows me all the art projects, then after bedtime, I put it in the recycling bin and pray my kid doesn’t ask about it again.”
No matter where are you on the saving spectrum, the end of the school year is a great time to teach our children to deal with their stuff. You know the stuff is coming, so now is the time to get ready for the mounds of artwork, 3-D projects, worksheets, essays, math tests, etc.
Before the stuff comes home, have a discussion with your child about making a plan of what to do with the stuff. For example: “I know you like to write. How many stories shall we keep from this school year?” Listen to what is important to them and be respectful of the emotions. Children need you to honor the process and efforts they made, not just the outcome. Share with your child the importance of deciding which items are “favorites” while letting go of the others. Emphasize the need to limit the favorites and what to do with them. For example, can you rotate old art projects for new ones? Frame a favorite poem? Here is one way to tackle that bulging backpack full of stuff:
1. Decide on a time and place to sort through all items brought home.
2. Set a timer for 15 minutes and sort! Make it a game to work quickly before the bell rings. Each item needs to be put in one of the following categories: recycle, toss or save.
3. Put everything away and celebrate with the reward!
I have an inexpensive art portfolio for each child (we take photos of the bulky projects for their scrapbooks then toss the project) and one medium bin labeled “School”. The goal is to keep re-evaluating each year what has been saved to make room for the new “treasures” coming in. What a great life lesson we can model for our children, even if we struggle with it ourselves. No matter if you are a saver or a non-saver, teaching your children how to make decisions about their stuff is critical. Next month: “Getting Organized for Travel”