How to organize your kids’ school papers

Learn what papers to keep and how to easily organize them — no crafting skills required!

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When my daughter started nursery school way back in the fall of 2013, I had to figure out what to do with all the papers she brought home from school. I had to work through mama guilt for tossing out things she had made, but the reality was that I just couldn’t keep everything.

Until then I had either kept things by shoving them into her baby book or file folder in my filing cabinet. Sometimes I took photographs of art projects from story time or church or home and then tossed them. Deciding what to keep and what to toss was a challenge.

It didn’t take long for me to figure out that I needed both a policy and a system. While I wanted to say I’d just toss everything for the sake of being organized, I also knew that one day I’d regret it because she was going to grow up faster than I wanted and it would be fun to look back one of these days.

But, I was also a busy mom with a new baby and a preschooler and don’t have a bit of craftiness in me. Scrapbooks weren’t going to be my solution. I already did family photo albums for each year and that was as crafty as I got (still is!). Then I stumbled upon a file idea that I fell in love with.

I was on Pinterest when I first saw something similar and knew that it would work well for our family and help with all of the paper clutter and artwork that I wanted to keep for posterity. I made a trip to the office supply store for a few supplies and thus we began our memory files for each child.

What you need

You’ll need one hanging file folder box per child, hanging file folders and their labels. I planned one folder per grade. For my kids, who each went through two years of nursery school, I have 14 file folders each. Depending on how you do it, you may also need one additional file folder per child.

To put our kids’ names on their file boxes, we used white Gorilla tape and a black Sharpie. (I love they make ones that are retractable so you don’t have to keep track of the lid!)

And that’s it as far as supplies go. See? Easy-peasy! No tools. No hot glue guns. No crafty skills required!

How to set it up

Label a hanging file folder box for each child with their name on the outside. Then label file folders for whatever grade level you are covering. You can do them all at once or one at a time. I do one at a time, mostly because that’s how my brain works! I put the kiddo’s name, grade and school year.

And then simply fill the folder throughout the school year with the papers you want to keep.

Starting this year, I have a file folder for each kiddo in my filing cabinet that I put papers in for the year and will then transfer them into their file box. I’ve found it’s easier for me to stick them in the filing cabinet I am always using rather than pulling out the file boxes and adding the papers in there as we go. You can definitely do it however works best for you!

The file boxes include things from preschool (and before) through their grades of kindergarten and third grade last school year. Based on my daughter’s box on the right, we may need to do two boxes per kiddo.
My daughter’s box is most full because she is oldest.

What to keep

Deciding what to keep is a challenge for sure. Here are some of the things I’ve put in the folders. Each year on the first day of school, I make a mock magazine cover for my kids that includes things like their shoe size, grade, teacher’s name, favorite things and what they want to be when they grow up. I print that out and stick it in the file.

I also use the file folder to put in leftover school photo prints and class photos. My kids go to a K-12 school, so they have a good chance of having many of their classmates in their graduating class that they did in their kindergarten class. I like the idea that one day we can look back at all the years together with these same friends.

Special art projects are something else that I keep. I like things that have handprints or fingerprints or that the kids have spent a good amount of time on. If they are large, then I do fold them down to fit into the file folder.

I keep teacher evaluations and sometimes test scores as well. Usually whatever paperwork comes home with us from parent/teacher conferences I put into the folder for them. It is neat to look back and see how they have progressed and learned through the years.

Writing projects are something else that I hang onto. From kindergarten on, my kids have had a journal they kept at school. They can include both fiction and nonfiction writing. I really enjoy these most, probably because I am a writer! But, they are definitely something I want to hang onto.

I usually keep papers or projects my kids do about themselves or things they like. The first of the school year tends to be a time they do these things and it’s always so neat to see what they have to say about what they like and who they are.

If there is anything not school related that I want to keep, I put those in the folder as well. This has included Sunday School papers or projects and programs from special events (like when they are in a school play).

The extras

And then there are some things that are too big for file folders. I could probably get a separate container for them and may do so one day, but for now, I stick them down inside the hanging file folder box. This includes their baby books, which have many of their doctor papers in them from their baby days as well as their immunization records.

I also kept journals throughout my pregnancy with each of them and put those in the file boxes as well. You can definitely include whatever keepsakes you want to hang onto and will fit in the file box.

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