When you’re faced with mountains of kid’s papers, how do you decide which school papers to keep and which to discard? It’s easy, just follow this simple 4-step method for how to organize kids’ school papers and art projects!
How To Organize Kids’ School Papers
Organizing kids’ school papers can seem like a daunting task. Especially when you are faced with towering piles of papers from multiple children. It can be even harder when you’ve formed sentimental attachments to all of those little scribbles, math tests, and handwriting papers!
Today, I’ll break down the process of sorting and organizing kids’ papers into an easy-to-understand 4-step process that will help you confidently decide which papers to keep (without the guilt). Then, I will show you the best ways to store those precious memories.
Step One: Laying The Ground Rules (AKA: How To Decide Which Papers To Keep)
Before you touch one single piece of paper, it’s important to first give yourself a framework to follow. This simply means that you need to set a few rules regarding which papers you will keep versus those you will discard, as well as where you will store the papers you decide to hold onto.
Everyone’s rules will vary depending upon the space they have available to store them, how attached they (or their children) are to the papers, as well as the legal requirements in your area (if you homeschool).
You’ll need to come up with a storage system ahead of time which will fit the space available in your home. If you have a large home with ample storage space, you may opt to dedicate an entire closet to your child’s (or children’s’) school papers and memorabilia. If, however, you live in a small home with limited storage, you may find that a notebook, scrapbook, or digital storage is your best option.
School Paper Organization Options:
- A hanging file bin labeled by child and school year
- A 4″ binder with clear page protectors and dividers-label one for each school year, or “primary, middle, and high school”
- Envelopes or paper storage boxes labeled by year and stored in a tote
- A clear bin (good for large artwork/crafts)
- An artist’s portfolio (for larger artwork)
- A scrapbook
- Digitally (my favorite method as a minimalist)
Take a few minutes to write down your ground rules. Here’s an example to get you started:
- Keep-All reports/research papers
- Keep-Sample of handwriting from the beginning of the school year & end of the year
- Keep-Favorite stories/poems
- Keep-(3-5) best artwork/craft pieces (take photos of the rest and discard)
- Keep-About me pages (from the beginning and end of the year)
- Keep-Final report cards, test results, awards, attendance logs, list of curriculum used, etc.
- Keep-A few papers showing examples of an area in which your child excelled
- Keep-Programs, playbills, ticket stubs from memorable events
Discard everything else.
The beauty of deciding ahead of time which papers you will keep is that it helps you stay focused and avoid following sentimental rabbit trails as you handle each piece of paper.
Instead of thinking, “Oh, look! It’s little Johnny’s 5,000th spelling quiz. Look at the way he spelled, “through” correctly! I remember how hard he studied for that test…”
You can quickly glance at the paper, recognize that it’s not on your predetermined list to keep, and swiftly put it in the discard pile. Guilt-free decision making at its finest!
Step Two: Sort The Papers
In order to organize kids’ school papers, you will first need to gather together ALL of the school-related papers currently strewn about your house. This is the hardest part of school paper organization. I promise it will get easier from here!
Once you’ve collected the papers, you will use the ground rules you laid out in step one, to sort through your kiddo’s school papers focusing on those you decided ahead of time to keep, while ruthlessly discarding the rest.
As you go, be sure to keep in mind whether your ‘keep’ pile is growing too large for your chosen organizational system. If so, may need to adjust your ground rules a bit to reflect your available storage space.
When you’re finished sorting, IMMEDIATELY throw away/recycle the papers in the discard pile! This will keep you from second-guessing yourself and going back through the pile.
Step Three: Store The Papers
If I could just tell you one thing when it comes to organizing kids’ school papers it’s this…Limit yoself!
Seriously, once you’ve decided on your preferred school paper storage method, use it as a firm boundary. Limit yourself to keeping only the papers which will fit comfortably inside. Resist the urge to over-stuff or worse, purchase more storage!
Finally, store any legal school papers in your home file cabinet/box. And store the remaining papers in your previously chosen location.
Step Four: Maintaining The System
Following the previous 3-steps for school paper organization won’t make a bit of difference if you don’t implement a system to maintain your kids’ school papers.
Here’s what I do to stay on top of school papers throughout the school year:
- Everyday-Go through the backpack and remove excess paperwork
- Homework-Completed daily by the child and placed in his notebook to return to school the following day
- In-Process Projects-Kept in child’s room at his workstation until completed and brought to school (although, sometimes, the kitchen table becomes his workstation) #reallife
- Completed Projects-Displayed in the home until a new project is brought home then, the old project is stored in a tote or in the child’s room (if no longer wanted, we take a photo of it and discard)
- Completed School Papers-Filled in a folder in my command center and organized quarterly (or when the file is full)
- Future Reference Papers-Calendars, menus, schedules, etc. are placed in a file in my command center and/or recorded in my planner
- Immediate Action Papers-Field trip forms, permission slips, volunteer sign-ups, etc. are filled out immediately and place in child’s notebook to return to school
- Upcoming Events-Field trips, performances, deadlines, school parties, dress up days, assemblies, etc. -Make note of in my planner (include time and any pertinent information) and discard the paper
But, Wait…What About The Artwork?
I’m so glad you asked! The problem with many school paper organization methods is that they don’t account for artwork larger than a standard-sized piece of paper. So what’s a parent of a budding Picasso to do?
My absolute favorite way to store kid’s artwork is to take a photo of the item and create a Shutterfly book which showcases their creativity without taking up a lot of physical space.
I also like the idea of creating a gallery wall of their best pieces and rotating out as the need arises. To create a gallery wall of your child’s artwork (as seen in the photo below), all you need is an assortment of empty frames with the backing removed, spray paint, thin wire, and mini clothespins or metal binder clips. Then, you can easily rotate new masterpieces into the frames without having to remove the frame from the wall.
Another great way to safely store kid’s artwork is an artist portfolio. These come in a variety of sizes and are a great way to protect delicate papers.
You can also store larger pieces of artwork/crafts in a clear stackable bin and sort/purge as it gets full.
A final note for when you are ready to organize kids’ school papers. If you are holding on to ‘all the things’ because you think your kids will want them someday…ask them (if they are old enough). There’s a good chance they won’t want the majority of their old school papers and would rather have just a few favorite projects/writings.
If that’s the case, great! You’re off the hook and nothing I’ve said here will matter!
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