It’s time for the next step in the paper clutter challenge. If you missed step 1 and the introduction, read about the paper clutter challenge here.
I also want to encourage you to celebrate your accomplishments, so once you’ve finished a step, come to the Facebook group and let us know how it went. Or take a photo and post on Instagram with hashtag #paperchallenge.
I’ve invited Natalie Gallagher to show you how to organize kid’s school papers & memorabilia. I know that organizing kid’s paperwork is a challenge for a lot of you, and so I definitely wanted to tackle that topic in this paper clutter series. Since my baby girl is only 17 months old, I don’t have personal experience with organize kid’s papers, so I was so excited that Natalie agreed to share her wisdom with you.
If you don’t know Natalie already, she blogs at the Refined Rooms blog. She is a professional organizer who recently made the switch from running a service-based business to authoring an organizing blog so that she can help people achieve their organizing goals no matter where they live. Paper organization is one of Natalie’s specialties. She’s capitalized on that expertise in her own home while managing the endless sea of school papers that her son and daughter bring home in their backpacks during the school year.
If you’re a parent, I don’t have to tell you how overwhelming it can be to manage the massive volume of school papers that enter your home each week. These papers include parent “homework” (e.g., permission slips to sign), reference papers, completed assignments/tests, homework papers…and the occasional keepsake papers that we set aside because we deem them worthy of saving for the long-term. If you’ve been searching for a system to organize your child’s school memorabilia, I’ve got you covered!
Deciding What School Papers to Keep
Begin the process by creating a set of guidelines you’ll use each year to decide what to keep and what to toss. Here’s what I’ve decided are “Keepers” for my family:
- Art work (I organize and store this category separately)
- Certificates of achievement
- Poems/short stories
- Special projects
- Programs from school events (concerts, plays)
- Assignments that reflect each child’s interests during that school year
To keep the volume of your school memorabilia in check, commit to saving only as much as can fit into ONE designated storage container that you choose (what’s known as a “self-limiting” container in the organizing world).
Ultimately, you and your child are the only ones who can decide what papers hold enough significance to justify saving them for the long-term. Keep in mind though that your kids will be better able to enjoy going through their school memorabilia if you’ve whittled it down to a manageable collection that represents their most treasured memories and proudest accomplishments for each year (do yourself a favor and toss the daily worksheets, quizzes and flyers!)
Storing the “Keepers”
My system for storing school memorabilia consists of creating a labeled hanging file folder for each school grade and storing papers within these folders. I then store all of the folders in a portable file box.
To set up this system for your home, you’ll need:
- A portable file box for each child (this 12-gallon Flip Top File Box works great!)
- A box of hanging files/tabs
- Shipping labels (I recommend Avery 3.33 x 4” labels)
- Label maker
Designate a file folder for each school year (including Pre-K and Kindergarten) using file folder tabs to label each folder (this is where your label maker comes in handy!).
In addition, attach a label to the front of each folder that allows you to record some basic information about the school year. My labels include the calendar years, school name and teacher name for each particular grade. I also attach a school picture to the front of each folder to see the progression from little person to fledgling adult!
Avery has a handy online tool for creating custom labels (or you can download my labels here). Be sure to create and print all of your labels at one time, even if your little cutie is only in preschool. That way, your labels will have a consistent look across each folder if your digital file somehow gets misplaced down the road. As you can see below, my labels for future grades are all ready to go for my 4th grader:
Let’s take a closer look at some of the types of papers that can live in your folders. I took out my daughter’s 4th grade folder to serve as an example. This folder contains the major 4th grade projects she completed, a paper that represents a proud accomplishment (passing the timed division test!), the program from her Night at the Wax Museum event, as well as some assignments that reflect her interests during that year.
You can choose to include other (non-school) keepsakes accumulated during the year as well, which is what I’ve chosen to do. For example, my daughter’s Girl Scout memorabilia, theater playbills, and ticket stubs are stored in these folders as well. Depending on how selective you are when it comes to keeping art work, you can choose to include a few key pieces of art in these folders as well. I generally recommend a separate method for organizing and storing art.
The beauty of this system is that when your children graduate and head out into the world, you can give them their school memorabilia bin as a parting gift! In the meantime, store the bin in your child’s bedroom in an easily accessible location and they’ll enjoy looking through the contents and reminiscing from time to time.
Additional School Paper Organization Resources
Also, if you missed the previous steps in the challenge, you can see them here: