How to Tame After School Clutter

One of the challenges of the school year is clutter. OMG SO MUCH CLUTTER! In general, clutter makes me crazy, but it feels particularly disrespectful (or not mindful) when it’s a result of the “I’m home, and now I’m dropping everything in the doorway and dumping everything all over the counter!” phenomenon. I know...obviously, I take it personally! Some friends recently asked me how to tame school year clutter; here are my top tips:

1. Develop a simple routine + give your kids specific jobs

Your first step is to enlist your kids to help by developing an after-school routine (similar to how you have specific steps with a bedtime routine). Instead of a vague directive such as, “Help me clean up” give kids specific after-school jobs. It does not need to be super involved or complicated! For example, Laurel and Violet are responsible for: 1) emptying their lunchboxes into the sink (Laurel washes her containers too), 2) putting school papers on the counter for me to go through, 3) tucking their shoes into and backpacks away, and 4) hanging their coats in the closet. The good news? This routine takes 5 minutes, tops. (The kids are also responsible for getting homework done, but that's a separate thing from after-school clutter.)

2. Be consistent and persistent about the jobs + routines

So as with everything in parenting, consistency is everything. And you will need to be persistent and it may take a while, which is totally normal! My girls are both rule following kinds of kids, but the reality is that when kids walk in the door after school, nothing is further from their minds than decluttering their school crap. So, you will likely need to repeatedly remind them to unload their backpacks and put things away until it becomes automated. It took us MONTHS of reminders until all of a sudden Laurel had mentally automated the after-school routine and just did it.

3. Immediately filter out the junk

My next (favorite and easiest) step is to immediately filter out the junk. I toss irrelevant paperwork right into the recycling. Same goes for most of Laurel and Vi's school artwork (I save select pieces and toss the rest) + the incoming mail. This is a really fast way to reduce your paper clutter pile, which is why I advise doing it right away, versus letting the pile sit and grow.

4. Plug dates into your calendar

Your remaining paperwork will likely be a mix of event notices/invitations, sign up forms, and permission slips. To reduce your paper clutter further (and to reduce likelihood of flaking on dates), immediately plug dates from event notices/invitations into your calendar solution (e.g., Google calendar, a family whiteboard calendar) and toss the papers into the recycling.

5. Sort and distribute

Distribute remaining paperwork in a simple command center, ordering most time sensitive items on top. There are lots of elaborate school command centers out there and I must admit, they totally make my brain hurt! Not only do I have zero time/interest to construct something complex, but I also find that if there are too many trays and slots and storage options, I lose sight of the papers. Keep it easy and simple and right in front of you with these three ideas:

You can set up this hook and clip system in a matter of minutes.

Create immediate (and pretty) symmetry with this easy clipboard command center -- hang one for each family member.

Short on wall space? Hang an organizational rack over a door.

Simple steps for taming school clutter

Simple steps for taming school clutter