What’s lurking in your childs backpack?

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It’s coming.  At first you don’t realize it.  It just sits there, ominously waiting.  It’s hidden itself well inside your sweet, adorable, little child’s backpack.  Then you hear a zipper being unzipped.  An action that is innocent enough but it sets off a chain of events that unleashes the nightmare from within!  “Nnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!!!”  You scream as you are perpetually caught in slow motion with your hand outstretched to try and stop it!  You watch in horror as you child turns the backpack upside down.  You can’t catch them in time!  It’s too late!  The beast has been unleashed!  “AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!”  It’s the dreaded PAPER MONSTER!

Able to swallow a kitchen table whole!  Known to bury a small child alive!  Causing nightmares where ever it goes!  It must be stopped!


The Paper Monster by Tyler

Sound familiar?  I don’t know about you but when my kids start back to school the onslaught of paperwork that comes home with them is ridiculous.  Calendars, reminders, invitations, ads for join this club, and sign up for that sport, yada, yada, yada.  Not to mention the completed school work papers that the teachers send home with them.  My first grader already brought home six pages of school work that he did in the classroom in just the first week.  It’s great to see what he’s doing and learning, but coupled with all the other stuff, it just seems to get lost in his backpack.

So what’s a parent to do?

Well, here’s how our family slays the Paper Monster at our house and I hope it will help your family too.

Everyday when my kids sit down to do homework we go through the contents of their backpack.  We sort all the papers out into one of four piles:

            1. To Be Done Today – homework, forms for mom & dad to fill out, etc.

            2. Ongoing – calendars, schedules and reminders

            3. Completed and Returned School Work – their favorite ones go up on the white boards or the fridge

            4. Trash – Ads for things we are not interested in or papers the kids don’t want to keep, it all goes into the recycling can

Obviously the stuff to be done today we do right away and put it right back in their back packs.  The ongoing is filed in our family’s notebook (I’ll post about that one soon!) under the appropriate tab like calendars/schedules or ongoing to do.

Pile number 3 is where most families paper monster tends to thrive.  The kids are proud of their work and want to keep it but where do you put all of it?  For our kids they have white boards that they can display their papers on and small desk drawer to put the rest in until we are ready to sort through them at a later date.  You could easily use any thing to hold papers in like a hanging or accordion style file folder, a manila envelope, an in box or just a wide shoe box.

White boards for each kid to display their work or draw on.

Once a trimester when our kids get their report cards we sit down and sort through each kids drawer.  It’s a great time to go back and see their progress and compare it to their report card too.  I let my kids keep one or two papers/projects they are most proud of and the rest we recycle.  The papers they permanently want to keep all go into a three ring binder that we use as a scrapbook.  If a project is just way too big or bulky to go in their scrapbook we take a picture of them holding up the project that can then be printed out and put in their scrapbook.  It is a lot of fun for us to look back at their schoolwork over the years and see how much they have progressed.

Be sure not to let the paper monster eat up your kid’s hard work and important documents in their backpacks.  The only way to stay on top of it is to empty and sort their backpacks, notebooks and folders everyday!  It’s a great habit for elementary age kids to get into the habit of doing so when they hit middle school and high school they will already know how to stay organized and not loose important papers.

Hopefully these tips will help you feel prepared to wage battle against the Paper Monster before it grows too big, while also teaching your kids lifelong organization skills.

About the author


Sue is a former Professional Organizer who left the field to pursue being The Mom. She is currently employed by her four children, Tyler (8), Bradley (6), Katelyn (4) and Breanna (2.5). As The Mom, Sue's days are filled with dirty diapers, loud kids, lots of messes and tons of fun adventures. She's paid daily in Hugs and Kisses and occasionally receives bonuses paid out in Thank Yous. Sue is the luckiest woman alive since she is married to the ever so handsome, Super Man (a.k.a. Corey). In her spare time Sue likes to sleep, eat doughnuts and sleep some more. Check out more posts from Sue at Tried and True Mommy


  • […] If you have school-aged children, you know how quickly their backpacks can turn into trash cans for all kinds of paperwork. Sue Werle says the best way to slay the “Paper Monster” is to keep on top of the paperwork day by day. In this post, she explains her four-stack organizing system: one stack for homework and other stuff that has to be done today; one for ongoing concerns like calendars or reminders; one for finished projects that have been returned by the teacher; and one for trash. Three of those stacks can be dealt with easily enough; can you guess which one is most likely to cause an ongoing clutter situation? (Organized Mom) […]

  • What a comprehensive solution to an often overlooked source of clutter. I’ve lost count of the number of times my son has found an invite or bit of paper in the bottom of his backpack after the relevant date has been missed. I have to admit to peeking in occasionally and quickly shutting the monster inside but I like your daily idea as presumably it is much easier to tame the creature in its infancy than when it grows. Thanks!

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