Easy System For Collecting And Storing Kids’ School Papers

Schooooooool’s out for summer! Sing it with me. School is out, we’re facing our first heatwave, and we’ve already downed our body weight in popsicles. But before we really get into summer vacation mode, let’s wrap up the school year. Meaning, it’s time to organize all the school papers for the year and put them away.

Stack of kids school papers sitting on a desk to be sorted at the end of the school year

Today’s post is all about my fail-safe, perfected, top-notch (insert more praise here) system for collecting and storing kids’ school papers. I’m sharing all my storage ideas for kids’ school papers and the easiest way to collect, sort, organize, and store that school work. Let’s dive in.

Collecting School Papers

The mountains of papers that come home with our children are unbelievable. It stepped up when our eldest hit first grade. The math worksheets, coloring sheets, writing samples, and Scholastic news. Every day was a new stack.

I wanted a simple system to sort through the paper clutter. When the school year started, I would sort through everything that came home every day and keep anything that seemed special at the moment. But you know what happened? I couldn’t keep up and that pile grew and grew. Before I knew it, our kitchen counter was cluttered with school papers.

Enter THE BEST (in my completely biased opinion) school papers collection and sorting system. This is the way. An easy way.

Absolutely everything that comes home, I give an immediate glance to make sure I’m not missing announcements, and then everything goes into a big basket in my craft room for short-term storage.

Basket sitting on a desk filled with kids school paperwork to be sorted and organized

All the art, worksheets, writing, etc. Everything goes into that basket. A tote would work well here too. Even Rowan knows that her schoolwork can go in the basket and often helps us.

Then we sort through it all once. Just once at the end of the school year. It’s one of those mind hacks that we’re deciding to decide on what to keep at a later date.

Sorting Through Kids’ School Paperwork

At the end of the year, the big basket of kids’ school work comes out and we sort. Rowan and I did this together which was a fun project to tackle while her little sister played dolls in the next room.

First, we sorted all the papers into categories before deciding on what stays and what goes. Our categories included newsletters, activities, coloring sheets, math, reading/writing, art, and mementos/keepsakes.

Sorting first grade school work, including art work and math worksheets, into categories on a large wooden desk

From there, we could sort through each category to decide what to keep versus toss. Or in some instances, like with the stack of Scholastic News newsletters, we could toss the whole category.

The goal in this stage is to touch every piece of paper and sort them in a way that makes sense to you for deciding what to keep and toss.

Consider Storage Space

Before you tuck that first piece of paper into a more permanent storage box, consider your storage space and any space constraints you have.

If you have a ton of space and want to keep every piece of art your child did at school because it’s important to you, go for it. If space is limited, you’ll know ahead of time that you need to be pretty ruthless about what you keep and store as you sift through piles of paper.

School memories storage system using file boxes for each school year stacked underneath a desk

We have lots of long-term storage in our attic but I’m trying to clean it out and not add to it. So the attic was out.

I decided that all the paperwork for kids, art projects, and other school papers, would live in my craft room. I don’t have a ton of space in there so I’m limiting school papers to a minimum but I’m making more room for saving the art. But more on that in a moment.

What To Keep

Before we started sorting through the piles of papers, Rowan and I jointly made a list of what we wanted to keep. Below is our list.

I also added things that are more pertinent for the high school years. Some things on the list don’t make sense for first grade. I’m sure this list will evolve as the kids get older.

  • Report cards
  • Special memories
  • School picture
  • Class picture
  • Certificates
  • Awards
  • Work showing their handwriting
  • Special and favorite artwork
  • Special papers picked by the child
  • Test scores (like ACT or SAT scores)

For special memories, we were thinking of things like the name tag that was on her elementary school desk all year, the interview sheet she filled out on the first and last days of school, the collection of birthday notes her classmates made for her, special certificates to her, and the Mother’s Day note she wrote me about how much she loved me (cue up the awwwwwwww.)

Special school memories including a birthday book from classmates, math certificate, name tags, and a memory booklet

We also considered important papers for her, decided by her. Right now in elementary school, it looked like her favorite math activity, the worksheet where she first learned how to count money, a few pages from her writing journal, and the first book report she wrote.

As our kids grow and move into their middle or high school years, their selection of important papers will change. I can see them including important tests they were proud of, essays they wrote and loved, science project results, and more.

What To Toss

We also decided up front, before diving into the pile of papers, what we were tossing. Deciding ahead of time made the game time decisions much easier for us.

Here’s our list of kids school work to toss:

  • School calendars
  • Lunch menus
  • Birthday cards
  • Permission slips
  • Activity sheets
  • Coloring sheets
  • Newsletters
  • Programs
  • Big/bulky items
School papers to toss including Scholastic News, coloring sheets, and other activities

Involving Kids

I believe in the importance of involving kids when sorting through their school papers. This is especially helpful once they reach a developmentally appropriate age to participate.

Our eldest daughter just completed her first grade year and this has been the first year she has been truly helpful. In years past, she has wanted to keep everything. The more I’ve involved her, the more she learns that she can’t keep all the papers and to determine what means the most to her.

Younger kids struggle with this process but still try to involve them. It’s a learning process for sure. What is special to them is not necessarily what is special to us.

Creating A Storage System

Now with everything sorted, a big pile of kid’s papers tossed, and a small collection of items to keep it’s time to store those things. 

Kids School Work Storage Ideas

There are so many great storage ideas for kids’ papers. With a just-right organizing system that fits your family. From simple systems to more complex ones.

Some of my favorite storage ideas include:

  • Tucking items into a portfolio
  • Taking pictures of each item to be put in a printed book
  • Putting everything for the year in a small file box
  • Using file boxes with hanging file folders for each year
  • Adding papers to page protectors in a binder system

In full disclosure, my initial attempt to store important documents from Rowan’s kindergarten year was to put everything in a small file box, with one file box for each school year.

School papers and artwork stored in small storage boxes

Do you know what happened? She regularly wanted to look at the art but couldn’t care less about the certificates and writing worksheets. It often left a mess.

Plus, I did the math and realized I would need 26 boxes, 13 for each kid for each year of school. That felt like too many.

So the system that we set up is two-fold. We have a portfolio that we use just for the artwork and everything else goes into the school memory box.

Set Up A School Memory Box

So what is a school memory box anyway?! I was new to this idea when I came across The School Years Children’s Memory Kit. It was just the solution I wanted. Although, they were sold out and more expensive than I wanted so I opted to DIY a memory box of my own. I’ll share so much more about it in an upcoming post.

Setting up a DIY school memory box starting with the first grade folder, folder with an end of school year interview and school picture on the outside, paperwork for kids inside the folder, and a portable file box to hold all the hanging folders, one for each school year

But here’s the gist of what a school memory box is. It’s one storage bin for hanging folders per child with file folders for each grade level. So one folder for kindergarten, one for first grade, and so on through 12th grade.

The front of each folder has a year-in-review sheet along with the child’s school picture. Then each file folder is filled with all the child’s school papers.

It’s a simple filing system for everything, elementary school through high school paperwork.

Store Kids’ Artwork In Portfolios

Our memory boxes contain everything except the art projects. Those are stored in portfolios.

I’ll share all the details of our art books in a future post, but here are the basics.

Large black portfolio filled with kids artwork, this spread of some painted poppies

Each piece of artwork gets a page in the book, labeled with the child’s age, grade, and date (ish). A label maker can be a helpful tool for labeling each piece but a post-it note works well too.

The art portfolios go in chronological order with each one containing more than one school year. But each child has their own portfolio of art.

They’re so much fun to easily flip through, taking a trip down memory lane of all the artwork the girls’ have created.

Happy Organizing

I wish you all happy organizing as you wrap up the school year, pack away the kid’s schoolwork and paperwork and kick off your summer vacation. Cheers (clinks popsicles)!

And thanks for stopping by our post about storage ideas for kids’ school papers with a system for collecting and sorting.

Pssst….Feel free to share how you prefer to store kids’ paperwork in the comments below. I LOVE learning more about others’ organization systems including school paper organization. Hashtag organizing is my favorite.

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