How to Organize Your Children’s School Papers

By Gyll Samson, Lead Professional Organizer, The Organizing Professionals®

As parents, we all find the amount of paper that enters our home from our children’s school a bit overwhelming.  Some pieces are works of art, some celebrated first written words, some graded assignments or report cards, and some, well, we’re not sure what it is!  But, as parents, we struggle with the choice of what to keep and what not to keep.  I have found that this thought process is different across generations.  For instance, my parents and their parents wanted to keep everything!  Now, as they get older and try to downsize, they want me to take what they’ve kept, but I don’t want all the clutter.  I do appreciate a few items as a snippet of my youth, but I don’t see the need for all of it.  Now, as a mom, I am faced with the same decision.  My two daughters, who are four and seven, bring home multiple pieces of paper daily.  At this rate, if I keep it all, I will be buried alive in paper by the time they hit high school!  That said, it can be difficult to decide what to keep and toss.

As a Professional Organizer, and the owner of a cozy-sized home, I knew I had to figure out a system that worked for me and my family.  What to keep?  Where to keep it? And what would my daughters want to see when they were ready to take their belongings in the future?  I always tell my clients to follow this rule of thumb when deciding what to keep or let go of; If you don’t love it, need it, or use it, then it’s time to let it go.  So, that’s what I do.

So where to store those papers? I knew, with my busy lifestyle, it needed to be an easy and efficient system.  I decided to keep clear “Sweater Boxes” from The Container Store close by to their backpacks for sorting their papers each day.  Those two lidded clear boxes are stacked and labeled with the child’s name and school year. This system makes it easy for the kids, or my husband, to add additional keepsakes to the collection.  You can use any type of container with this method, but I find that the clear lidded boxes avoid the step of transferring those contents into a storage bin later and provides a specific measurement for how much I want to keep.  If the box gets full, I review the contents and try to downsize the pile. Either way, this is a quick-thinking first pass at whittling down the clutter.

My short-term plan is to store these boxes in my basement each year. My long-term plan is to revisit these boxes every few years and use the rules, again, to decide what to keep and to avoid clutter.  I’ll then consolidate items into elementary school, middle school, high school, and college categories. The end goal is to have only one large bin of keepsakes per child by the time they move out so it’s manageable for our storage and for them to take. If your children decide to keep a collection of their own keepsakes, limit them to one bin as well to keep clutter in check.  I promise, they will thank you later.  Don’t forget to teach them the rules about how to decide what to keep.  I hope this information is helpful if you are faced with the flood of paper like I am.  Having a system as easy as this one will keep you from getting overwhelmed and give you a plan for managing it in the future.  Happy organizing!

Pro tips:

If you enjoy seeing your children’s artwork and have a tough time deciding what to display, here are a few options that will help manage the load.

  1.  Wall frames –display one picture/piece of art while storing multiple pieces of paper in its case for easy rotation. 
  2. Photos – Take a photo of each piece of art and use a photo app on your phone, laptop or digital picture frame that rotates the images so you can choose more than a few.
  3. Keepsake Books – There are companies that will take a box or folder of unorganized artwork/crafts/photos/papers and scan them into a beautiful keepsake book.  This option is a wonderful way to preserve the items in a way that saves space and can be easily passed down to your children later.