Decluttering Old Schoolwork: should I burn old notebooks?

Should you throw away your child’s old schoolwork? This is a hard decision for many parents and grandparents: read on for eight strategies that will help you decide and feel you have made the right decision! Here are the options in brief: which are explained further below!

  1. Laminate special pages.
  2. Digitise work.
  3. Frame important art.
  4. Create memory folder.
  5. Put throwaways into recycling.
  6. Paper can go into compost.
  7. Ritually say goodbye to important work.
  8. Use some for craft.

Does Anyone Not Save Their Kids Old Schoolwork?

Yes, plenty of parents don’t save old schoolwork. It doesn’t even occur to lots of parents that schoolwork should be saved! If you don’t want to save it, then don’t. If a piece of schoolwork has a special memory attached that you want to preserve, look at the techniques below for saving items!

See Marie Kondo below for some tidying ideas.

Does Anyone Have a Hard Time Getting Rid of Old Schoolwork?

Plenty of parents, grandparents, and carers have a very hard time getting rid of old schoolwork. So much of it has precious memories attached about a certain point in the child’s development. Remember it’s totally fine to hold on to lots of it, you just want to be organised!

Do You Need to Keep Old Schoolwork?

You probably need to keep old schoolwork for up to one year, or until the school year’s end. The work might be relevant for final exams. Some subjects like maths build on knowledge and so you might want to consider keeping this work for a few years. But you don’t need to keep anything beyond that.

Can I Throw Away Child’s my Old Schoolwork?

Yes, you can throw away your child’s old schoolwork. If you are certain they won’t need it for school anymore, then you might want to mention to the child that you are considering getting rid of it. If they approve, then you have the greenlight to toss anything you don’t want to keep!

Why Do Some Parents Keep their Child’s Old Schoolwork?

Some parents keep their child’s old schoolwork because it represents a special time in both the lives of the child and the parent’s life as well. For some parents, helping their children with homework is a time to create a special bond that is a wonderful memory.

When a child starts further education, whether it be sixth form, college, or university, they will have lots of old school paperwork that they no longer want or need. As a result of this, a big tidy up of all those papers will be required, and often it will be their parent who does the majority of that sorting out.

Lots of parents will have tried to keep track of all the important papers a child brings home–the written work, the best pictures, the most praised essays, the awards, and the school reports.

A child doesn’t have to be a prodigy for these to mount up.

Surprisingly, the items that a child might feel are not worth keeping might be loved by their parents.

For example, that cartoon of their teacher, the poem about interesting animals, the Year 7 Form Teacher Award for Being Helpful … and when a child leaves school entirely, their parents could well have received a mountain of paperwork. 

Although parents will periodically do a cull of the unnecessary items before they become a fire hazard, paperwork can still mount up, and for some people, throwing away their children’s old schoolwork can feel like disposing of their childhood.

Although this isn’t true, it can still make getting rid of those items an emotionally fraught experience, especially as they move through the different school levels.

A child’s work at infants’ school is very different to that at senior school or sixth form, but still interesting and filled with memories.

Should I Save My Child’s Old Schoolwork?

It’s fine to either throw away or save your child’s old schoolwork. For most people, finding a balance is the key. If you need to bin some of it to make space, or for your own peace of mind, consider choosing a few items that spark joy, and finding special ways to preserve those like lamination.

First, it’s important to decide on why you want to keep those old school things and whether your child feels the same.

Often they won’t, so consider your reasons for keeping those items.

  • Is keeping a child’s old schoolwork part of a bigger hoarding problem? Working on that will help you in many ways.
  • Does keeping their old things make you feel closer to your child? There may be better ways of doing this. Things like a designated ‘memory box’, for example.
  • Do you worry that your child will think you uncaring for throwing old school things away? It would be worth discussing this with your child, rather than just assuming it.

Break a Habit by Throwing Away Old Schoolwork

When a parent has always kept all their child’s old schoolwork, it’s a very hard habit to break. British Psychotherapist, Philippa Perry tells us that people feel reluctant to let go of old things because they have survived this far by doing what they have always done, and don’t want to risk changing.

Although this is completely understandable, it may be time to consider alternative ways to manage a child’s old school related items, and this time without it becoming an emotional loss to dispose of it, or a storage problem to keep it. Think of it as ‘Keep or Lose’!


  1. Keep: Laminate special pages: This can be done at some printers, online, or through buying a laminator.
  2. Digitise work: Scan old documents to put on a computer or a digital storage device.
  3. Frame any art: Favourites can make wonderful images for your wall.
  4. Create a memory folder: Find a good sturdy folder for the most important items.
  5. Lose: Put into the recycling bin.
  6. All paper can be shredded and put into the compost.
  7. Add to a bonfire. Older children particularly like this option as a ‘rite of passage’ once they’ve left school.
  8. Crafters can find lots of use for old paper. A quick look online will bring up dozens of possibilities, for example: paper making, weaving baskets or paper sculpture.