Ahhh, the end of the school year! So full of picnics and Field Days and special performances and recitals and baseball games! Will you survive it all??
My second grade son was told last week he didn't have any more homework except to read each night and I'm not sure who was more relieved: him or me.
May and June brings an incredible ramp-up of activities and commitments, and then school is out and bam! Things slow down and you have a little time to pick up the pieces.
I have a good routine in place of tasks I try to do when the school year ends to wrap up the previous year, stay on top of things, and to be ready for when school starts up again in the fall.
Here are some things to consider tackling when the school year is done:
1. Sort and archive special papers and art projects from the year. There is probably somewhere (or many somewheres) that the papers and art from the school year has been piled. Gather it up, sit down and go through it all, keeping the pieces that either a) have the child's photo on it or b) really reflect something about the child, the child's inner personality/likes/dislikes/observations/perceptions. Worksheets can be tossed. Scribbles can be tossed. Spelling tests can be tossed. But writings about what they did one weekend, or a poem, or who their best friend is are easily deemed worthy of saving. The trick is to have only items that tell you something about the child at that point in time.
I have used this criteria for YEARS with my kids and it has kept the busywork to a minimum and the pieces I kept really tell the story of who my kids were when they were younger.
Keep an eye on the volume you are keeping. Most grown kids are happy to have a few pieces from their childhood, and their spouse and children will think its adorable to have a few sheets of messy handwriting describing their family life. But not one person I have ever met has said, "Man, am I grateful that my parents saved 15 boxes of papers from my childhood! I can't wait to find a place to store every single one!"
There are many resources on the web of how to store the pieces you do keep... a plastic storage box with hanging files (one for each year, one box for each kid) or a flat white box from The Container Store are my personal preferences. I have two flat boxes for each of my kids and separate the items in the box by 1.5 gallon plastic bags labelled with the year, teacher, school, and grade. During the school year, the boxes are right in my office and I pop items in as the year goes on that I think I may want to keep. Because its so easy to put items in there, its a system that I can keep up with. Then over the summer at some point I sit down and sort through them again and put them in that year's bag. My advice is also to not involve your kids in this process... they are by nature pack rats and will want to save it all.
If the top does't close, weed out some more. Having a hard limit of how much you can keep is a life-saver.
And also keep in mind that after 5th grade, the inflow of "precious papers" drops considerably and it gets easier to stay on top of all of this.
2. Go through Photos from the End of the Year Events and Organize Them. This is a time of year for recitals, special plays and performances, moving up ceremonies, baseball games, and Field Days. Take an hour one or two days and specifically look at your photos from the last few months. Delete bad or duplicate shots, edit them, and either print them out or establish a labelled file on your computer to save them. Send special ones to relatives who couldn't be there in person. You may want to print out a few to slip into the papers folder/bag from that year.
3. Give Out School Pictures. Yes, your child had a great picture taken at school and you dutifully bought the package of pictures. Did you hand them out to the grandparents and aunts and uncles? Take time to find the pictures and dive them up by relative. Note whether they should be mailed or given to the recipient in person the next time you see them.
I have a good friend whose mother made a small, simple album for her with each year's school picture and class picture. This shows an uncluttered view of the child growing up and the kids who grew up with her. I have grand plans of doing this for my own kids. We'll see.
The same applies to baseball pictures and dance recital pictures- sort them and give those babies away!!
4. School Supplies! The discount stores generally start stocking school supplies in the end of June or right after Fourth of July. Get an early start on school supplies, and don't forget to pick up some extra crayons, notebooks, pens and glue for your household stash to use throughout the year.
Nothing is more frustrating than having to go to three different stores in August and pawing through picked over displays looking for one specific item on the list.
5. Inventory Your Child's Clothes for Fall. Here in the Northeast we've had a cool and rainy spring and are just now consistently breaking out the shorts to wear. But fall clothing arrives in stores usually around July and August, so be sure to look through the pants and long-sleeve shirts now and determine what your child will need.
My son just went through a huge growth spurt (one of many, I'm sure) so I had to buy all new summer clothes for him two sizes up. I know that his pants will all have to be rebought in the larger size for the fall, as will most of his long sleeve items. Also check rain jackets and snow pants... these are items I forget to repurchase in larger sizes for the fall and winter season.
As you are going through last fall/winter's clothing, put aside the too small pieces either to hand down to your younger kids or to be sold in a garage sale or on a mom-swap site.
6. Take A Good, Hard Look at the Backpacks. Have they been beaten to death? Can they be washed and repaired? It they are beyond salvaging, toss them out and note on your calendar that come fall, a new one will be needed. I generally buy a decent quality backpack every two school years for my kids. If the backpack can be used for another year, try to take an hour to wash and repair it.
So there you have it... a plan to wrap up the school year and start prepping for fall. All in all, this should take 1-2 hours for each step.
If you are feeling overwhelmed, always keep in mind that a professional organizer LOVES TO DO THIS STUFF and would be a great investment for bringing you peace of mind. There is always help available.