Tuesday, February 27, 2018

How to Organize All of Your Child's School Papers in Just One Box

*This post may contain affiliate links.

Ah, the never-ending trail of school papers that parents have to deal with!  It can be such a nightmare.  And if you’re a sentimental person like me, then it’s even worse, because you probably have a hard time letting things go.

For the last few years, I have looked high and low for a system that actually works for storing papers that the kids bring home from school, and I just didn’t love anything that I tried.  For a while, I stored them loose in boxes, and then for the last couple of years I have been storing them in random files in my file cabinet in my office.  However, the school papers took up so much space that I no longer had room for my regular files (taxes, bills, etc.) so I realized that I was going to have to find a better way to do it.

Today I’m going to share with you how I finally got everything organized, and y’all, it is absolute perfection!  I’m only regretting not doing it sooner.

And before I go any further, after you read this post, be sure to go follow me on Instagram... there is a live look at these boxes in my "Simplify 3" highlight as well as a behind-the-scenes look at the rest of my entire decluttering journey.  Just look for "Simplify 1," "Simplify 2" and "Simplify 3."  Lots of good stuff!!  And I update new decluttering/organizing stuff pretty frequently so be sure to check back regularly!

Let’s do it!

For this project, you will need the following:

1. 1 Hanging file box for each child (you may want to go ahead and stock up on these because you will probably want to make a non-school papers keepsake box for each child in addition to this school papers keepsake box.  The non-school papers keepsake box is for birthday cards, notes, artwork, and other paper keepsakes that are not affiliated with school.  You can see that post here.)

2. Labels for the outside of each of the boxes

3. Chalk Markers to label each box

4. Manila folders (I needed 8-9 per box)

5. 1 Set of hanging file folders for each child (I needed 26 per box)

I have these file storage boxes from Amazon and I LOVE them.  They have a split lid so you can open just half of the box, and they are also slightly longer than standard file boxes so they have a bit more room.  **Update for June 2018, Amazon is sold out of the 1-packs, but you can get them here at Walmart.com**  If you're looking for something similar there is also this slightly smaller size that is pretty inexpensive.  Also, thesethese, these, these, and these look like good options as well.  If you prefer a cheaper version, you could also grab some of the cardboard banker’s boxes as well. 

I bought these chalkboard labels a while back as well as these chalk markers and I used those to label the outside of the boxes.

These are the manila folders I purchased to go inside the hanging file folders.  I use these all the time for my regular files, so eventually my box of 100 will get used.  Plus they were only $10 for 100.

I purchased these hanging files on Amazon because I love that they come in different colors… I chose blue for Jacob and pink for Olivia, their favorite colors respectively.  I already had a set of yellow hanging file folders so I used those for my own box.

Which brings me to… YES, I still have all of my old school papers.  EEK.  I know my parents meant well when saving all of the heaps and gobs of old papers (hiiii, Momma and Daddy!), but goodness gracious it was just too much!! 

Moms, listen to me when I say – when your kids are adults, they will NOT want every single piece of paperwork that they ever brought home from their entire school career!  Take it from someone who just cleaned out boxes and boxes AND BOXES of old school papers.  I had so much stuff that I got tired of looking at it.  When you’re in the lower grades a lot of the work is repetitive.  I swear I tossed a whole box just of handwriting practice!  Haha.  I’m so thankful my parents did save stuff, but my old keepsakes literally filled my office closet from floor to ceiling before I purged, and it took me over a month just to clean them all out. 

So before you get started, keep this in mind – BE RUTHLESS!  You only need to save a random sample of stuff from each grade!

Now that you have that in the forefront of your mind (and you’re going to keep it in the forefront of your mind the entire time you work on this) let’s get started!

The first thing you need to do is set up your keepsake boxes.  I’m using ours for SCHOOL PAPERS ONLY.  Non-school papers are going to be stored differently, but that’s another post for another day, which I hope to get to soon.  ;o) 

Label the outside of the box (I labeled each box with the child’s name, and “School.”), and then hang your file folders in the box.

Once your boxes are set up, now it’s time to plan out your categories.  You should have one folder for each grade, plus some additional folders for report cards, awards, and other miscellaneous things.  Your categories will look similar to mine, but there may be some slight differences depending on if your child went to daycare or pre-school or not.  Our kids went to daycare so they started bringing artwork home at the age of one, so we have the folders starting from those first one-year-old classes.  For each of these files below I save the class syllabus (which is at the front of the folder) and then I save a few random pieces from throughout the year – reading, math, and other school work, art work, special projects, etc.

We have hanging folders for the following grades for school papers:

Young Toddler Papers (age 1-1.5)
Older Toddler Papers (age 1.5-2)
Twos Papers
Threes Papers
Pre-K4 Papers
Kindergarten Papers
First Grade Papers
Second Grade Papers
Third Grade Papers
Fourth Grade Papers
Fifth Grade Papers
Sixth Grade Papers
Seventh Grade Papers
Eighth Grade Papers
Ninth Grade Papers
Tenth Grade Papers
Eleventh Grade Papers
Twelfth Grade Papers
College Year One Papers
College Year Two Papers
College Year Three Papers
College Year Four Papers

Then behind all of the school papers folders by grade, I also added the following hanging folders for all of the other school-related papers that were saved that were not school work itself:

Grades – This hanging folder is divided into two folders, one for “Report Cards”, and one for “Test Scores.”  The folder for “Report Cards” will contain every single report card that my children receive.  Report cards are one thing that I do not throw out.  The folder for “Test Scores” will contain results for the big annual tests that they take, SAT scores, etc.  This folder is not for every day tests that they take in class.  It is only for the big tests.

Awards – This hanging file is divided into three folders, one for “Academic,” one for “Scholarships,” and one for “Sports.”  I save every single award that my kids are presented with as well.  Chances are they’ll actually care about seeing those more than they will their school work.  Each type of award is filed in its respective folder based on the category it falls under.

Keepsakes – This hanging file will contain everything else that does not fall into one of the other categories.  I have many different things in this folder.  I have a few of the “Eat, Sleep, and Poop” info sheets from when the kids were infants at daycare, I have a few of the “Incident Reports” from when they fell and scraped their knees, programs from their school concerts and events, their Kindergarten diplomas, and eventually this file will also hold programs from their high school graduations and high school diplomas and other things like that. 

School Pictures – This hanging file is also divided into three folders, one for “Individual,” one for “Class,” and one for “School Dances.”  I may also have to add one for “Sports” down the road as well.  The “Individual” folder contains all of their spring and fall and yearbook individual pictures, the “Class” folder contains all of their class pictures, and the “School Dances” folder contains all of their photos from school dances.  Our school holds a Mother/Son dance and a Father/Daughter dance, and they always have a professional photographer, so all of those pictures will go in there.  And eventually their Homecoming and Prom dance pictures will as well.  Waaaahhhh!  I don’t even want to think about that!

Now that your categories are decided and your folders are ready, it’s time to organize those papers and get them in the boxes.

Again, BE RUTHLESS.  This box is going to be for your child’s entire school career (our boxes even include college) so you are going to really have to pare down what you save.  I promise you that your kids will be thankful… they will NOT want to see every single assignment that they ever did.  Nobody would ever have time to look at everything and nobody wants ten boxes of school papers lying around and taking up space either.  If you feel bad about throwing stuff away, you could always snap a quick picture of each piece with your phone and create a digital folder as well.

This is what both of my kids' boxes currently look like... clearly I have some purging to do!

The last thing I will be including in each of our kids’ boxes is a keepsake book from all of their teachers.  I bought a copy of “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!” for each of them when they were just babies, and I have had every single teacher sign it since they were infants.  I will continue having every teacher sign it until high school graduation, and then we will give the books to them after graduation so they can read all of the sweet notes from their caretakers from their first eighteen years of life.  If you haven’t started doing this, I urge you to.  Jacob’s and Olivia’s teachers always think it’s the neatest idea when we ask them to sign their books at the end of each school year and they always write the sweetest little notes in there.  It’s something that they will treasure forever.  I just know it!

Once the kids graduate from college, we will hand over their boxes so they can see everything that they accomplished during their entire school career!  Random samples of their school work from every grade, as well as every single report card, test score, scholarship, award, keepsake, and school picture will be in there along with a book signed by every single teacher they ever had.  How cool is that?  Wouldn’t you love to have a wonderful time capsule like that?? 

And you wanna know how I know that this system will work?  Because I made one for my entire school career!  I went through aaaallll those boxes and saved a few things from each grade as well as all of my report cards, test scores, scholarships, awards, keepsakes, and school pictures.  I only saved what I could fit in one box and everything else went in the recycling bin.  I had so much stuff that I literally filled our four-foot tall recycling bin to the tippy top.  TWICE. 

I now have every single thing that I actually want to see from my 18 years of school right here at my fingertips and it only takes up the space of one small box. 

Life, simplified!

Good luck!

And remember, if you want to follow along with me on my journey to simplify my entire life in 2018, you can do so HERE.  I post updates in Instagram Stories frequently, and if you missed any of them, just click on the “Simplify” story highlight in my bio.  They’re all there!

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  1. I have already ordered the boxes! I just need to order the hanging folders! My kids bins of school stuff is a complete MESS! I can't wait to get this all finished!
    Thank you for sharing!

  2. I was very ruthless in my purge but it took me until they were in junior high. I have a box for each kid but now you have me wanting to do this! This is soooo great Lindsay!

  3. Such a GREAT idea! Definitely keeping this in the back of my mind. My mom did scrapbooks for us, so I don't think we have any extra stuff lying around, but I am going to have to ask. And I LOVE the idea of doing The Places You Will Go book - such a sweet keepsake!

  4. Girl you did great!!!! This is such an important aspect of decluttering and organizing that all moms need to consider!

  5. I think the hard part is the being ruthless! I might have to try though!

  6. Such a great idea. Better then what I'm doing, which currently EVERYTHING goes in the round file bin (aka trash can). I might have to do this, but like you my parents gave me a couple of boxes and I was like...what? I don't want this, so I figured, my kids are not going to want this stuff either :) But I like that you have one box for EVERYTHING!

  7. This is such a great system and I love the signed book idea! I just sent this to my sisters for their kids.

  8. Oh wow you did a great job with organizing your kids papers into one box. I really need to do something like that with my teens things that are just piled into my basement! Thanks for this post and sharing it at Cooking and Crafting with J & J. I'm pinning this.
    Julie xo

  9. I'm sooo glad you posted about this! I've been wanting to do something like this with Lilli's artwork. Definitely going to try this out!

    1. Glad I could help! I hope you love it as much as I do!

  10. How did you print on the labels? Is there a template to follow? That's something I want to make sure is nice, neat and labeled perfectly.

  11. This is definitely a task that I need to tackle sooner versus later!!!

  12. I love that you put those manilla folders inside each year for certain things, I totally need to do that!!! Makes it even more organized!

  13. Such a clever system to have into place. I REALLY need to set this up for my girls. Right now my system is a box that we've shoved things into over the years #fail.

  14. Yes, I would have love to receive a beautiful keepsake like these boxes when I graduated. You've created such a beautiful (and beautifully organized) keepsake for your children. Thanks for sharing at the This Is How We Roll Link Party.

  15. I'm going to do this - going Friday to get folders and stuff can't wait just finished organizing hubby and my closet. Next the kid and pantry. Toys done and under bathroom sink done. Thanks for all your great ideas.

    1. You are so welcome! I'm glad to have inspired you! It'll feel great to have it all done!

  16. I see a summer project on the horizon! With 4 kiddos, I have soooo many papers and have been looking for just the right solution - thank you! I also have their teachers write a special note in a book - and they have no idea, which makes it even better!

    1. You are so welcome! Glad I could help! And yes, that does make it even more special! So fun!

  17. Hello! I'm sorry if I missed this in the post, but what do you do with the artwork that is commonly bigger than a standard piece of paper? So far I'm thinking they can go underneath all the files, flat on the bottom.....

    1. If artwork is bigger than the standard size, I usually either fold it in half or in fourths and still put it in the folder, or if it's too big to do that I usually just get rid of it. My son had to make a Star Student poster when he was in Kindergarten and it was on poster board (which was obviously too big to fold for the folder) and I couldn't bear to get rid of that, so I just rolled it up and it's sitting in his closet. Laying it on the bottom under the other files is genius, though!

    2. My suggestion and what i do sometime is take a picture of it!!!

  18. Ok...done! I've ordered from your links and I'll be ready to tackle some organizing. The current method is not working haha

  19. This is amazing and I'm in the process of ordering everything right now! Did you go with the medium tote or the large tote? I'm having a hard time deciding... :) Thanks, Lindsay!

  20. Love this idea! I want to homeschool my children so unfortunately I will not be able to have their teachers all sign something for them (great idea! I wish it had been done for me) but it will give us a way to organize all that we do want to save over the years. Not to mention that they will be able to compare boxes with their own children one day. Thank you for taking the time to write about this, I am sure your children will deeply appreciate this when they are grown.

    xoxo Kay

    1. I know, I wish that had been done for me, too! And hats off to your for homeschooling! I don't think I have the patience for it.

  21. Now I have to do this ×7 πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚ idk where I'll put them all...

    1. LOLOLOLOL. Better load up on boxes and file folders!! Haha.

  22. My son is starting Kindergarten and my daughter preschool in September. THANK YOU!! This is absolutely amazing and I'm so grateful to have found this post!

  23. I have a question. What do you do with oversized things? My mom saved mine folded and I hated that they got ruined by folds.

    1. Hi Katelynn, so far I've only had to deal with a few oversized things. A couple of them weren't super special so I just tossed them, and then the rest I folded. Hopefully my babies won't be upset one day that I folded them. I do have one thing that was HUGE - a whole posterboard - it was Jacob's Star Student poster board for Kindergarten. For that, I just rolled it up and put it in his keepsake box for stuff other than paper - for books, toys, and those kinds of keepsakes. Eventually I plan to do a post about that box as well, and eventually I will tie them all together and share all of the keepsake boxes that I have for each child. :o)

  24. Awesome! Thank you so much for sharing! I am an organizational nut my self!! I have some what of a system but like this one much better. I know what I will be working on this weekend!

    1. You are so welcome! I'm glad you like it! I hope you find that this system works for you! I just love that we will end up with one small time capsule of their entire school career in one box. I don't want ten boxes of old school stuff lying around!


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