Don’t Let Paper Take Over Your House! 5 Tips for Decluttering Paper

Mamas, it’s that time of year. . . Back to School!  There are many things I like about back to school, but for me, one of the things I dread as the school year approaches is the amount of paper my children and their teachers produce.  During the summer months the main sources of paper are our daily newspaper, the mail, and the art projects my kids make at summer day camp.  But once the school year rolls around, I have a lot more paper to manage!  On top of the newspaper and mail, my kids start coming home with all kinds of paper!

Their backpacks are like little clown cars at the circus . . . the paper just keeps coming and coming and coming!  More importantly, my kids don’t differentiate between what I would consider “important” papers and just paper.  This week, I found a homework assignment mixed in among the lunch menu, a certificate of participation, and the 12 rainbows my daughter’s friend drew for her during one of their indoor recesses.

If I let it (and I sometimes do!), paper takes over our house!  It covers the kitchen table and counters, I stuff it in cupboards and drawers, and I even have piles of paper in my bedroom!  Aside from the fact that it looks cluttered, sometimes I also misplace the important stuff in the sea of paper. This summer I found a permission slip for a field trip in my dresser drawer. I’m pretty sure my kindergartner still went to Wilson’s Apple Orchard last September, though!

This summer I started to try to plan ahead for the amount of paper that would start to infiltrate my house once the school year started.  And while we’re only a few weeks in, our new paper plan seems to be working, so I’m sharing some of my tips with you!  Mamas . . .don’t let paper take over your house this year!

paper organization1. Prevent

Stop the paper from coming into your house.  Before bringing mail into the house, sort out the junk and recycle it before bringing it to your house.  Then, separate the mail that needs attention immediately from the mail that you will need to deal with eventually.  Have a landing spot for both types of mail and put the mail in those places as you walk into the house.

2. Have a system

What will you do with kid paper?  I display the “stay at home papers” (pictures, worksheets, certificates, etc.).  Keep the homework in the homework folder until your child completes it.  As soon as it’s done, put it right back in the homework folder, which immediately goes into the backpack.

3. Forms

Fill out forms for school the day you get them and immediately put them back in your child’s backpack.

4. Book Basket

Have a landing spot for library books.  We have a basket under the “important mail holder.”  The kids put their library books into the basket when they get home from school.  When they are done looking at them they go back into the library basket.

5. Coupons

Only keep the coupons you will use and find a home for them.

Good luck!  I hope you and your home will stay paper organized this school year!  

What are your paper management tips?


Kate lives in Iowa City with her husband (Matt) and three kids, ages 7, 5, and 2. She works at the Belin-Blank Center for Gifted Education and Talent Development at the University of Iowa. She earned her PhD in Curriculum and Supervision in 2012. Prior to working at the University, she taught high school mathematics at many public schools in Iowa. Kate has also coached junior high and high school cheerleading squads for 10 years. Kate has a personal blog . . . stop by and relive your junior high and high school mathematics classes! (without the anxiety or the homework :) )


  1. We bought wire mesh “inboxes” and hung them on the wall in the laundry room/mud room. Important mail goes there, sorted between my husband and me, and a third box catches art projects we want to save. The coupons get pinned to the border of a whiteboard/cork board hanging on the laundry room door (important so they can easily be skimmed). Stamps And address labels go there too! 🙂


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