So Many School Papers! How to Streamline This School Year

I pride myself on many things, but being organized isn’t one of my strengths. When my firstborn started elementary school, five years ago, I quickly had to figure out a way to track all of the school papers coming home in his daily or weekly folders: fliers for things like volunteer opportunities, information about special programs or field trips, fundraisers, class parties. Notes about dress code, spirit days, materials needed, and approved snack lists.

preschoolers cutting shapes from colored paper

Not to mention the onslaught of work my child had completed, from simple worksheets and coloring pages to elaborate artwork, projects, and writing practice.

If you ike holding onto stuff, the volume of school papers can get overwhelming, fast.

I needed a system. It took me some time to figure out what works for me, someone who will never get excited about labels or spreadsheets. But this is what I’ve learned so far.

If you are a new elementary parent, or just looking for a way to streamline the school papers, here are a few ways to cut down the clutter:

Folders: The Most Cost Effective, Small-Space Solution

Each kid gets two folders to keep at home. Color code them or label them. One is for their school work. You can label one pocket “Work in Progress” and the opposite pocket “Work Completed.” Homework that is being worked on goes in the first pocket. Any completed schoolwork goes into the second. Easy, right? All their work is in one place you or your child can easily access- no more “where is my homework?” panic! Being able to look through the completed work (especially reviewing old tests or quizzes) can be helpful when working on new work too.

"Work in Progress" folder for school papers

The downside is, that you are going to need a backup storage solution for the completed work as it will quickly overtake the folder, especially if you have a child in second grade or younger.

The second folder is more for the parents. This is the “Important Info” folder. You can likely keep track of multiple grade levels or different schools in just one folder, too; no need to have one for each child.  Maybe your teachers gave you an “all about me” printout at your meet the teacher night. This can go in your Important Info! Any school papers about PTO, upcoming school events, rules or policy information can also go in here.

Like, you’re wondering “When is the book fair starting again?” Well, good for you because you placed that information in your Important Info folder and it’s there whenever you need it.

Drawers: You Might Already Own Them

This system is what we use. I was gifted one of these rainbow drawer organizers years ago and we use it to keep our art supplies handy in the kitchen. When my second child started pre-K, I emptied the top two drawers and gave one to each of my children’s school papers. This gives us ample space to collect all the paperwork, completed work, and work in progress in one designated space for each child.

filing drawers

I keep their completed work underneath, then important paperwork, then their current homework on the very top for an easy reminder. Again, having designated spaces for these things keeps my kids from wondering where their homework is when they’re ready to work on it. The drawer gives a lot more room for the completed work to compile. However, you will still have to move the school papers elsewhere once the drawer gets full.

pulled out drawer with school papers inside

Alternative Options for School Papers:

Go entirely paperless! You can take a picture of each important information handout coming home and create an album in your phone for school info. You could put any important school dates into your phone calendar and write digital notes about things, too. You could even use this method to keep a record of your child’s work, and just get rid of all papers immediately. I’ve seen people snap photos to create photo books of their children’s artwork to easily save it on a bookshelf. That’s genius!

Call me sentimental, but I do see value in keeping some hard copies of their work, especially early handwriting samples. You don’t need to save everything they’ve ever scribbled on, but a few specially curated items from each year are a sweet record of your child’s education and early years. And of course their progress!

How to Save School Work- For the Long Term

If you are a sort-through-as-you-go person, have at it! You can edit down the stuff you want to keep or toss as often as you like. My children’s school is broken up into four 9-week quarters, so I try to do this quarterly at least. I save the really special stuff and toss the rest. {You might have to do this when kids aren’t at home, FYI.}

Then, I move the really special stuff to a storage box (each child has their own). Currently, I am using an old Amazon box for my younger child. It does not have to be fancy. 🙂

file box with hand sorting papers

As I mentioned at the beginning, I’m not this level of organized but I do have the intention to eventually get some file boxes and label my children’s work by grade. I think 5-10 items from each year of school is an ample amount to save, if you feel so inclined. You may not care, but your kids might. Alternatively, you might care and save tons of special things, and they might not care once they are grown. I still support giving them the option!

I hope you found this helpful! I had no idea when my child started elementary school that it was also time for me to “grow up” and be better about staying on top of stuff. It was a learning experience in the beginning with plenty of trial and error. I’m sure I’ll keep tweaking our storage solutions as my kids grow and their work gets more digital, too. Happy organizing!

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Mary B
Mary B. is a lifelong creative, dreamer, and joy seeker. Born and raised in northern Illinois, Mary attended the Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University, receiving her B.F.A. in acting, then worked as a sometimes actress/model, sometimes waitress. Mary and her husband got married in Sept 2012, welcomed a son in 2014, moved to Texas from Chicago in 2016, and welcomed a daughter in 2017, completing their family. She self-publishes her musings on marriage, motherhood, and life on her blog, Accidentally Texan,. In her free time {free time--ha!} Mary loves to read, cook {and eat ;)}, work out, swim, travel, and spend time with her family. Mary believes emotional connection is the root of humanity and our collective purpose in life.


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