If you're like most busy, hardworking parents, your system for organizing your child's school papers probably involves the kitchen table or counter. I understand it can be difficult to manage the massive volume of school papers that enter your home each week. These papers include parents' “homework” (e.g., permission slips to sign), completed assignments/tests, cute artwork, keepsake papers, and more that we set aside because we feel we need to save them.
If you're tired of kids’ school papers getting lost or taking over your home, then it’s time to create a simple plan for how you will handle kids’ school papers and memorabilia. It will keep your home more organized and reduce stress, I promise!
Let’s get started!
Clear The Clutter
Before you get started on organizing those piles of paper you will need to clear the clutter first. Parents often keep kids’ papers without actually evaluating what their future purpose will be. They also may keep every single paper rather than be selective about what’s special. Even the tiniest doodle could be a treasure you think you’ll cherish dearly when your children grow up. I understand that getting rid of some of these papers and your kid's artwork can feel emotional. After all, you love them, you're proud of their accomplishments, and you want to capture what they were like at a certain age. However, not scaling down the portfolio does not change the fact that kids grow up. It just postpones the decisions and you will feel disorganized and overwhelmed by the clutter.
How To Decide What Papers To Keep
With all papers that come into your home from your little ones, I understand it is very tempting to keep every work of art, school project, etc. as I mentioned above. It’s hard to know what’s important and what’s not. If you ask your kids, they’ll most likely tell you to keep everything. I’ve found it helpful to create criteria for what school papers to keep in a memory box and what to let go of. Below I have a simple outline that I suggest you follow when you are sorting through your children's papers when deciding what to keep and what to toss.
Kids' Paper To Save:
Paintings/drawings that show some skill
Handwriting/sentences that share this station in life
Quality photographs from the teacher
Evaluation forms/reports from teachers
Kids' Paper To Toss:
Anything with glitter
Notes from friends
Kids' Paper To Save:
Quality writing assignments
Artwork that shows creativity/skill
Certificates or Awards
Complimentary notes from the teacher/administrators
Kids' Paper To Toss:
Notes from the school nurse
Always ask yourself this one question - Is this item worth saving for 20 years? Will my child get joy from seeing this again?
Create An Organization System
There are many excellent organizing ideas for school papers, including keeping a binder system, a portable filing bin, a wall storage system, or creating a digital folder on your desktop (if you have gone paperless). The best organizing system is the one that makes sense and will work for you and your family.
At the end of the day, school paper organization should be a simple system to hold all the information you need during the school year and those special memories you want to keep.
Here are a few ideas for organizing kids’ school papers at home.
Command Center Have a command center or a place where all paperwork can be sorted immediately when brought into the house. Once you have an easy-to-use system in place, teach your entire family how to use the command center. One of my favorite ways to create a simple command center is to use a tray with files. You can design the trays to be specific for whatever paperwork you regularly need to sort. The key here is to regularly go through the trays and not let them get overfilled.
Action File Create an action file for the papers that you don't have time to take action on right away or if they need to be saved for a later time. This is where you can store those papers that need to be signed, that sports signup that you need to write a check for, the school lunch calendar that you will need to reference at some point, and any other important papers that need to be kept, but not filed away. This system will only work if you keep up with it. That means checking it at least once a week. To get you into the routine I would pick a day and time that you know you are home every week and set an alarm on your phone.
Memory Box A school memory box is a container that stores a child's school memorabilia. I suggest using a memory box for each child. I've found that a plastic file folder bin is the sturdiest way to create a memory box. Make sure to label the bin with the name of your child and have file folders for each year or grade with personalized labels as well. Inside this school keepsake box you can put whatever you want:
School art projects. When the kids’ artwork comes home, display it in a temporary gallery for at least a week. After a week or when another masterpiece comes home, the old one should go either for recycling or to your child's memory box.
Handmade paper creations
Sports memorabilia, team photos, ribbons, certificates, and medals
Priceless “firsts” (first coloring page, first time writing her name, etc.)
School awards and certificates
And so much more
Remember to put a name and date on the items you plan on saving. I also suggest storing the bin during the off-season in a climate-controlled area away from too much sunlight or dampness to protect it for years to come.
Going Digital To Preserve Your Children's Artwork
I wanted to provide a great option for keeping your children's school and artwork without adding clutter to your home! When it comes to saving artwork, there are two ways to approach it: saving the physical artwork as I mentioned above in a memory box or digitizing the artwork and letting go of the physical item. Or a combination of both! While keeping originals of children’s artwork has its benefits, the fact of the matter is that you won’t be able to keep everything. The good thing is that living in the digital age means it’s relatively simple to create a digital copy of paintings, drawings, and other art masterpieces.
Making memory photo art books allows you to organize and preserve your memories in a way that is both original and personal to you. Memo books can contain artwork, photographs, and other mementos of a personal nature, all of which can be kept in one place. You can use apps like Shutterfly, or Chatbooks. Both options are quick, easy, and inexpensive ways to preserve your child's artwork sans clutter. Another great option is The Class Keeper app. The Class Keeper app helps you safely keep all the best childhood memories as they are happening or pulled from years past. It’s your private placeholder for unlimited photos and stories.
Digital memory books are a terrific way to enjoy your child’s artwork for years to come.
Whatever organizing system you decide to use, it is essential to create a simple system so your children can be involved and all family members know what to do when your children come from school and unload their backpacks.
Include organizing their paper in your daily routine by sorting what can be recycled, and what important dates need to be added to your family calendar, and place all artwork, notes, and every piece of paper in their respective homes.
You’ll not only teach the children important organizing skills but have less stress in your life and also keep your home free of clutter.
Want to learn more about Simplifying & Organizing with Kids?
If you are a busy parent who feels overwhelmed with all the kid clutter in your home, then you will want to sign up for my digital online course "Simplifying & Organizing with Kids". This course allows you to say sayonara to piles of toys, books, clothes, and papers that accompany your kiddos through the years.
Simplifying & Organizing with Kids will give you back your time, your energy, and your space, and allow you the freedom to enjoy the more important things in life like experiences and quality time with your kids.
This course goes on sale next Tuesday, March 7! Read all about it and sign up for the waitlist at the link below!