Organize School Papers to Manage Clutter and Memories


How do you organize school papers and projects?



‘Tis the season for all the back-to-school papers! Are your counters starting to fill with assignments, art projects, and more as the school year is officially back in session? I consider myself the family documenter— the preserver of our memories and big milestones. And yet … the physical clutter that accompanies all the beautiful stages of growth can sometimes feel very overwhelming. I’m still trying to strike a balance between “Team Keep Everything” and “Team Toss It All,” but wanted to share a few organizational nuggets that have served my family well.


Decide on your paper/art philosophy BEFORE you start.


One of my favorite teachers, Becky Higgins, applies the famous quote “Begin with the end in mind” by Stephen Covey to the process of memory keeping. Can you visualize yourself giving your kiddos one binder when they move out that highlights the best of their school days? Crafting your strategy ON PURPOSE ahead of time will make decisions on what goes in the save/recycle pile so much easier!


Questions that I regularly ask myself:


  • Are my kids going to want a bunch of papers/binders from their childhood?
  • What will be important to them looking back on their learning journey?
  • What type of artwork brings a smile to my face?



Have a dedicated space in your home to display artwork.


Even if you are team “Toss It All,” having a dedicated area to display their drawings and papers sends a strong message that you value the process of creating. One of our best purchases years ago: an inexpensive oil drip pan from Walmart. We attached it to a wall with hanging Velcro for an instant magnetic art display area! (Idea credit: Pinterest!) DIY art galleries can help spark conversations to learn more about our kiddo’s imagination and learning process. Not sure what to say? Check out Colleen Fitzsimmons-Wiviott’s post HERE for awesome ways to start a dialogue.





What about those 3D creations out of paper towel rolls, cardboard, extra paper, etc …? My kids have designated shelves in their rooms for these types of projects. As soon as this space is full, they know it’s time for a visit to the recycling bin! 



Use digital tools to your advantage.


One of my favorite documenting strategies: take a picture of your child holding the piece of the artwork. It’s a win for everyone: the art is preserved without taking up any space, AND you’ve captured the artist in the process! This strategy works really well for larger pieces of art with dimensional elements that are bulky to store. 




I remember Kindergarten, 1st, and 2nd grades as a prolific writing time. My kiddos would write stories that often had just a few sentences on each page. Instead of saving the actual papers, try recording your child reading the story to you. You will get a snapshot of their writing process (you can even zoom in on their handwriting) along with their sweet voice. Video adds the magical element of audio to make your memories come to life! 


Store seasonal art with your decorations.


Pack away seasonal crafts/artwork with your Holiday decorations instead of putting them in a general school storage folder/container. If that special handprint art is tucked away with your Holiday decorations, you are more likely to display and enjoy it. Isn’t that the point of saving it, really?



Curate & revisit your save pile.


If an item makes it to the save pile, make sure it is dated and add your translations for any brave spelling that your child is practicing. I can’t tell you how many times my kids couldn’t remember what they were trying to write when I tried asking them about it later!


One other idea to consider: if your child has been working on a particular skill and you come across a paper that documents progress in that area, write them a little note! Save the worksheet because it contains a story with YOUR voice telling them how proud you are of their efforts and reminding them of the journey. My daughter, Olivia, struggled through math word problems in 1st grade. When she aced a problem set at the end of the year, you bet I saved a sheet and recorded my thoughts on her perseverance. I hope it brings a smile to her face decades from now when she reads these words from my mama heart.


Finally, here’s a key step that can easily be missed: at the end of the year, after you’ve seen how much has accumulated, revisit your pile one more time. Go through the stack with fresh eyes. You might be surprised at what is no longer meaningful after just a few months! Maybe instead of keeping everything in a particular subject, you only keep the first and last examples to show the progression of time and skills gained. 


One thing is for sure: there are no right or wrong answers in this ever-constant battle to streamline the clutter while preserving the type of memories you and your children will enjoy for years to come.


We’d love to hear about YOUR process to organize school papers and any tips you may have collected along the way. Join our conversation on Instagram or Facebook!




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