10 tips for end of school year
Last week was the end of another school year for our family. I know many of you are in that same boat of wrapping up the school year and, of course, some of you are on a different schedule. Regardless of when your school year ends, most parents can relate to that “end of school year” chaos that tends to happen. There is usually a rush of so many final projects, testing, papers, performances, showcases, parties … you name it. It seems to all get scrunched into that last month of school, doesn’t it?
And just when you think all of the craziness comes to an end … then your kids come home with so. much. stuff! Right??
I hear you. I feel it, too. But you know what? I don’t feel overwhelmed. What’s my secret? I have a game plan. I do the same thing every year. And it works for us. Certainly, many of you have traditions and rhythms that work for you in “managing the chaos” and we’d love to hear from you in the comments. It’s always fun to see what other people do.
The tips I’m sharing in today’s post are pretty universal, regardless of what kind of school your kids go to and how old they are. I simply want to share what we do by breaking it down into realistic steps that make the entire process completely manageable. I was actually going through the motions of doing all of this last week (the day after the kids’ last day of school) and was in-the-moment sharing some of the tips on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Some of you aren’t really on social media much and that’s why I wanted to do a full blog post about this. Hope that you find a couple little nuggets of useful information!
1. Empty the backpacks immediately.
Seems like such a simple idea, but it’s worth pointing out. One year we just set the loaded backpacks to the side and I felt overwhelmed just seeing them in the corner of the room. Why carry around that burden of an unfinished project? I learned to just get it done within a day or two of the school year ending. And I learned to do this WITH my kids (for some of you, it may work best to do it without them – ha!).
When I shared this tip on social media, one customer / reader chimed in and said, “Great idea! My son left a sandwich in his one year and put it in his closet after the last day of school. We figured it out by following the HUGE trail of ants that invaded sometime in July. Hard lesson learned.” Yikes. Let’s not do that.
2. Photograph the backpacks.
In case you didn’t get a shot of this item that is attached to your child’s back every single school day … be sure to snap the picture now before you forget and before the backpack gets tucked away. Quick. Easy. Awesome documentation. And you can slip the photo right into their Project Life® album. I totally wish I had pictures of all my old backpacks when I was in school.
3. Get everything in one place.
Yes, I know papers are likely flying around from during the school year just as well. It’s all good. Pull the workbooks, notebooks, papers, projects, art, awards, everything into ONE PLACE. Seeing it all together is instrumental in being able to wrap your head around what you’re facing. At least that’s how my brain works.
At this point, the kids and I go through it all together. I encourage them to throw most of it away and keep just a handful of things. We keep best art pieces, a few handwriting samples, of course the ribbons and awards, and any other pieces of “evidence” from their school year that helps tell their story … without keeping every single thing.
4. But it’s all cute!
Yes, I know. Everything your child draws is a masterpiece. Every paper is precious. Every homework assignment matters. I know, I know. And every single picture of your child is so cute too, right? Right. I get it. But is it possible for us to print every. single. photo and actually get them into an album? Let me ask a different way — Do we really want to preserve and display every single photo and piece of paper? A few of you might say absolutely yes! And that’s fine. There’s no right or wrong in memory keeping. I’m first in line to promote that idea.
But for the majority of you who are in my boat, the idea is to choose a sampling of their photos, artwork, and memories that will make it into an album. I can’t tell you how to choose. That’s entirely personal – and very much an individual thing. For example, for my Crew (he’s currently 5), he draws multiple pictures every single day. It’s a lot. I love it and I encourage it. But I’m not going to SAVE every paper he draws on. When I “begin with the end in mind” and think down the road when he’s a teenager … or even a grown man … what do I think he’ll want? EVERYthing? Or a sampling that does a great job illustrating his story?
By the way – family portraits are always keepers in our home.
5. It’s okay to tuck away
Some people have memory boxes. Some have drawers. Others use totes or file boxes or crates or folders. Regardless … It’s not usually realistic for most of us to unload backpacks and literally get stuff put into scrapbooks straight away. At least not for me. One day we’re unloading backpacks, getting things gathered and spread out, and going through it all. The actual scrapbooking happens at another time.
So this is what I do with my kids’ stuff – throughout the year. At the end of the school year, I simply add to what’s there.
I have this wall of cubes in our home office. It holds our albums and some scrapbooking supplies, etc. I’m usually asked to see more of these (as well as information about what is in the cubes) and I’m pleased to tell you that next week’s At Home with Becky blog post is going to be a tour of the home office with all sorts of details and photos! Stay tuned for that.
So back to my system. Each child has a cube for their “stuff.” This is where I keep all of their things that are just hanging out and ready for me, whenever I do get a chance to get it into albums. I have found in recent years that I’m really okay letting things accumulate through the entire school year and then I do some “catching up” in batches when I have a bunch gathered.
6. Buh-bye to bulk.
Some stuff is just bulky. My kids have notebooks and workbooks that are thick. Sure, there are a few pages that are treasures and I tear those out to keep (or scan & print smaller). But really – my kids and I agree that there’s just no reason to hang on to all of those bulky things. So what I do at the end of each year is lay out those items that we want to remember, but we don’t want to necessarily keep.
Snap snap. Easy. Done. That picture I now have will memorialize the beat up folders and decorated notebooks forever. But the actual physical items go straight to the recycle bin.
7. Larger items.
You know the pieces of art that are too big to scan? Take a picture. Use natural light. No flash. Place the piece on a neutral floor and stand directly above the art work so it’s a nice straight-on shot. Or have the child hold the artwork. We save the most favorite art pieces, but most of them are scanned or photographed – and then tossed. I know some of you are gasping. I’m not suggesting you have to do it this way. It’s just what works for us.
Once the bulky or larger items are photographed, you simply print those photos and they’re ready to slip into your album with the rest of your photos. Easy-peasy!
8. Compile it all into an album.
This is my favorite part. I can totally appreciate the fact that this is the part that is most intimidating or scary for so many people because the idea of “scrapbooking” all that stuff is just overwhelming, daunting … and where do you even begin, right?
Just work with the recent year in your child’s life. Bring their stuff out. Print the pictures you love from the year (all 4×6 to keep it really simple). All you need are some Project Life Photo Pocket Pages + some pre-designed cards. Everything slips into pockets. No creativity required. No complicated tools.
Which Project Life cards? That’s up to you! We have so many fun options available. I love the Childhood Mini Kit (shown below) because those cards are loaded with specific prompts that help you to record detailed memories. I just noticed the super discounted prices on these items on Amazon so now is definitely the time to check those out – holy cow!
We also have some fun School Themed Cards (a few of those cards were shown at the very top of this blog post). Be sure to check out other Themed Card sets like Boy, Teen Boy, Girl, and Teen Girl. But really … any cards are great! Just pair those with your photos and memorabilia!
Project Life makes this otherwise daunting task so easy and really – it comes together very quickly. I don’t add pressure to myself to do anything creative. I just want my kids’ stuff to shine and I want to be realistic about what I have time to do … and so my personal approach to managing, organizing, and preserving all my kids’ stuff is using the Project Life system. It’s designed to be solution-based.
Keep in mind that some papers and artwork should be saved and kept in their original size. Shown above is one of Claire’s favorites and as you can see, it slips right into our Horizontal 8.5×11 Page Protector, which fits right into the album with all her other pages. We have 5×7, 8×10, 8.5×11 – all in both horizontal and vertical format. And 12×12 too, of course. You can see them all HERE.
9. The scanner is your friend
As for that little stack of papers and art work that are so special but don’t necessarily need to each be displayed in their own page protector? I’m a fan of scanning those items and printing them smaller. Not sure how to get two 3×4 images on one 4×6 print? We’ve got you covered. Check out a few recommended options in this blog post.
The Photo Pocket Page design you see below with a bunch of Claire’s papers, all scanned and printed 3×4? That’s Design F, found in Big Variety Pack 1. You can check out other Small Variety Packs HERE. We have several page designs that allow for those smaller prints when you want.
Side note: One day Claire drew our company logo (and she added the .com) and presented it to me as a gift. Seriously the cutest. Just like all of her other art. Whether it’s related to school or not, my approach is to just get a sampling of photos / memories / art / papers / memorabilia from that year into the album.
If you’re not scanning or photographing it and you want to get some items straight into the scrapbook … that’s what our Envelope Pages are for! You can check them all out HERE.
So there you have it. That’s our routine! The result is a little ongoing set of albums (I have a different color per child). I use the Scrapbook Dividers to label and identify each year of school / life. Sometimes I go months and months and months without doing anything in the albums, and that totally works for me because catching up is such a breeze with Project Life.
This post is part of a weekly blog series called At Home with Becky. Each Wednesday, I share a little something from home – routines, organization, traditions, decor, etc. If you are interested in seeing all of these posts in one place, just click on that turquoise button at the top of my blog that says At Home with Becky.