Very soon, my youngest daughter will come rushing out of class and announce that tomorrow she must bring in a black bin liner "so I can clear out my tray and bring all my books home to keep".
Aggghhh. It's enough to make you weep.
Why doesn't school get it? I don't actually want a black bin liner (splitting at the seams) crammed full of Emma's school books, her miscellaneous colouring pages, numerous half-finished maths work sheets, Christmas card artwork (unfinished - so that's where it went) and wet play sketch book doodles.
Don't get me wrong – I love flitting through her books at parents' evening and I will always keep a handful from over the years as a treasured memento. But that's it, I don't need every last piece of artwork she ever did, or the dog-eared paper containing her preparatory work for the "design a firework" competition she entered back in November.
"But what are we supposed to do with it all?" says my friend Rebecca, a year six teacher and mum of three. "If you tip the lot you will always get a load of parents asking for their child's stuff, and if you send them home with it you get parents like you shooting us daggers outside the classroom as they see their child dragging the bin liner towards them."
Sorry, I'm so in the second camp.
And it's not just the sheer volume of stuff that comes home, my daughter – bless her – wants me to sit down and go through every last bit – which she wants to painstakingly hand me, one at a time, and talk me through.
"You bad bad mother," exclaims my cousin Anne (earth mum, stay at home goddess, all round wonderful person). "I've been making a memory box for Seth since he was at nursery – it's packed with items which plot his progress along the way. When he's 18 I'm going to present him with it – we'll have such fun going through it together."
Is she for real?
If I was to make memory boxes for my three, I'd need to rent storage space to keep it all, and never mind a "box" I'd need industrial-size crates.
And is she telling me she's kept all the junk modelling Seth as made? Over the years I've sent in more cereal boxes/yogurt pots and loo rolls than I should think Sainsbury's can hold in one store. And I've groaned as this rubbish has come back home having morphed into a fire engine, a dinosaur, a corner shop, the hanging gardens of Babylon.
What's more, when Emma and I lug the dreaded bin bag in through the door, I will dump it somewhere, and then spend the next few days (ok, weeks) moving it from place to place. It will sit in the corner of the kitchen for a while, then possibly find its way into the front room, before miraculously making its way upstairs and into Emma's bedroom. Then one day in the summer holidays, as I desperately try to cram the lot into the bottom of her wardrobe, she will come across me.
Frowning slightly, she will say: "Mum, shall we go through my stuff now? You need to look at it before you put it away."
And I will be caught. There will be no way around it, unless I do really and truly want to be a bad bad mother. I'll have to sit there, stressing about all the other jobs I have to do, about dinner not getting cooked, about the pile of ironing and the copy yet to be written, and I will smile sweetly and try to look interested as she opens the book to "Maths, September 2010, book one."
It will be a long session.
Keep a few treasured items. One exercise book from each year per child (their literacy work is usually a good choice) is fun to look back on when your children are much older.
Display artistic creations fashioned out of kitchen roll cardboard and tea bag boxes for a week. After that if your child can't bear to throw them away, suggest you send them on to loving grandparents with a little note explaining how it's a labour of love from little Polly to Grandma and how Grandma might like to keep it now. Grandma will hate you - but it's a small price to pay to dump the junk.
Tackle going through the bag early - grasp the nettle and get it over with. Otherwise you will end up spending the summer holidays shunting the bag from one part of the house to another.
Sigh loudly when your child comes out of class with their bag of stuff and exclaim: "I don't want that tat in my house". Your idea of tat is their idea of treasure.
Sort the bag out in front of your child. Try whizzing through it before looking at it with your child - you will be able to sort a lot of the really tatty stuff out first and bin it - and it will make for a much quicker operation when you look at it "for real".
Throw anything into the main kitchen bin - that will be the same day your child (unusually) puts their own rubbish in the bin. To avoid wails of anguish and a huge tantrum when they see their drawing of The Titanic in the recycling box, wrap all such artwork in plastic bags and put straight in the outside bin.
Does this sound horribly familiar?
What do you least like carting home - wet play doodles, maths books from nine months before or that massive Tudor house complete with straw thatch?
What was the most space-taking-up creation ever brought home?
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