Updated on January 27, 2023
Organize School Papers. Learn how to organize your child’s school papers, including where to store them and helpful tips on what to save.
Both the beginning and the end of the school year remind us how much stuff our kids bring home from school. I thought it would be helpful to share my process for how to organize school papers.
Personally, I tend to save a lot and be very sentimental. It is hard for me to let go of things. However, I know that I can’t keep everything. Plus, I try to keep in mind my kids won’t want boxes and boxes of “stuff” to take with them when they leave home.
This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase something through the link, I may receive a small commission at no extra charge. Please read my full disclosure policy.
Where to Store School Papers
Ultimately, where you store your papers is up to you. You want your storage to be moisture-proof so for this type of storage I prefer plastic over cardboard. And having a box with a locking lid helps keep out any unintended water and dirt even better!
A few years ago I decided to create ONE file box for each child.
Having only one box limits me on what I can save. It is large enough to hold a lot of papers but not too large that I can go crazy and keep everything.
My system is pretty simple. I purchased these large file boxes. I have one for each of my kids.
I added labels using my label maker, so everything was nice and uniform. You could also label the included tabs with a permanent marker.
The labels include one folder for each grade, plus I added a folder to the beginning of the box labeled 1 – 3 years where I can keep artwork they made before they started preschool.
Bebas is the font I used.
Another option to store the papers would be to use a binder or binders. You could do a binder for each stage of schooling – preschool, elementary, middle school, and high school.
Usually, I am a huge fan of binders, but in this case for the amount I want to be able to save, I would end up with too many binders.
RELATED: Home Management Binder
How to Organize School Papers
Personally, I think the more challenging part of dealing with the kids’ school papers is not where to store them, but how to actually organize and sort through them.
If you are anything like me, it can be tempting to save every last drawing your child makes because they are all special. However, you will end up with a mountain of papers that cannot be contained if you don’t purge at least some of them.
Gather All the Papers in One Location
The first step in sorting out the kids’ school papers and artwork is to first gather it all into one place.
Start with this step whether you are just starting out with a child in preschool, or if you have boxes and boxes of papers shoved away to sort through for your soon-to-be high school grad.
Sort by Child and Then by Age/Grade
Once you have all the papers in one spot, if you have more than one child you need to sort out the papers by each child.
Then, you will want to sort out the papers by your child’s age or grade level. If you don’t know exactly when your child created the paper you are dealing with, put it in the grade or age you think is the closest.
Helpful tip: Label the back of your child’s art or school papers with a year, a grade level, or even a specific date as they come in. This will help you to sort later on if you are not filing the papers right away.
Sort By Category
Next, you will take one grade or age level at a time and sort by category. For my son’s third grade year, I sorted his papers into four main categories:
- Report cards and awards
- Reports and assignments
If your child is younger or older, you will probably have different categories than what I used. This step helps with the purging process.
Throw Out or Recycle
Once you have everything sorted into piles, I find it is so much easier to figure out what to keep and what to toss. When you can see you saved 100 math assignments, for example, it is a lot easier to let some (or all) of them go.
Sort through each pile and decide what you are going to save.
Helpful tip: Purge as the papers come in! I have found this to be much easier as your children get older because you will know what types of papers they will bring home and what you might want to save.
You will see my sorted piles are fairly small. Most of my son’s daily homework gets looked at and then goes straight into the recycling.
I try to keep a small sampling of his homework and tests from the beginning of the year, middle of the year, and end of the year to see how he has changed and improved. Other than that, it gets thrown out.
If you are a parent of a young child, you will probably be saving a lot more now than when they get older. My kids are now in middle school and high school and I don’t save nearly as much as when they were in elementary school.
Once you have your piles sorted and purged, place all the papers for that particular grade in the file folder.
Note: Anything that is handmade specifically for me or my husband – Christmas gifts, cards, etc. – goes into our own file boxes we have for memorabilia. These types of items do not go in our children’s file boxes.
Continue on with this process for each age and grade level for all of your children.
- Sort again
- Throw out or recycle
Create a System for Incoming Papers
Now that you are all caught up on filing your kid’s papers, it helps to create a system for the new papers coming in. You can choose to deal with the papers daily, weekly, monthly, or yearly. I do a combination of all of these.
- Daily: Once you have your file system set up, you can recycle the papers you don’t want to keep. File the ones you want to save right away in the appropriate file folder.
- Weekly: Have a place to keep papers as they come in for the week. A file folder, hanging paper sorter, or letter tray all work well. Once a week, go through the papers, recycle what you don’t want, label the back with a date, and file them in the appropriate file folder.
- Monthly: Have a small file basket near where your kids empty out their backpacks and have them place all papers to save in the basket. Go through the school basket once a month and file any papers you want to save and scan any others you want a record of but plan on recycling.
- Yearly: Would you rather go through them once at the end of the school year, instead? Designate a large tote to hold the papers until the end of the year. Once school is out, use the method above for choosing which papers to keep and to get rid of.
Helpful tip: If you are having a hard time letting go, use the monthly or yearly method of sorting and purging. It is a lot easier to let go when you have a huge stack of similar papers in front of you, rather than looking at each item individually.
Ultimately, you have to decide what system works best for you, and then stick with it! If you and your children know what to do with the papers coming in, it makes the whole process run much more smoothly.
At first, my kids were a little upset that I was tossing out so much of their schoolwork. But now that they have seen my system in place, they are okay with letting a lot of the daily homework go. They trust that I will keep the most important papers.
Parent Information, Notes, and Papers
Papers my kids bring home that are for parents – permission slips, field trip information, weekly or monthly newsletters, order forms, etc. must be gone through as well.
I place all the papers in my home management binder. They get filed in the correct month in my planning section or in the child section if it was not time-sensitive. I go through my planning section several times a month so I don’t miss anything.
Helpful tip: Sign permission slips and fill out forms as soon as you receive them. Add the dates and times to your calendar. Have your child place them in their backpack to go back the next day. You won’t have to worry about missing a deadline.
Alternatives to Saving School Papers
You may have items that you want a record of, but don’t want to save the actual paper. Or your child may create a large project that is not feasible to save. There are several options for what to do with these papers and projects.
- Mail or give artwork to relatives or a special friend that would appreciate your child’s work. This can be a great way to share with grandparents or aunts and uncles that live far away what your child has been up to.
- Use larger artwork to wrap presents.
- Scan the artwork and save it on your computer, then recycle it.
- Take a picture of the artwork or project, then recycle it. You can do this on a flat surface like a table or white foam core board. You can also take a picture of your child holding his or her artwork.
- Turn those photos or scanned works into a photo book each year.
- Add the photos to a scrapbook. They are smaller than the original art and you can add much more per page.
- Use an app like Artkive to save your child’s work. Sort them by age, grade, or year. You can have a photo book printed right from the app.
- Create a DIY portfolio to file away larger artwork.
How do you organize your child’s school papers?
You may also like:
This post was originally published on May 10, 2016. Updated August 24, 2022.