Trash or Treasure? How to Organize School Papers, Memories and Art

The new school year is here, and that means backpacks will be headed home filled with forms, flyers, classwork, and art. It will be your job to determine what to keep, organize and store, and what to recycle. 

I will admit that when my oldest started preschool I kept EVERYTHING. I filled multiple storage containers because each piece of paper was a work of art to be treasured. I thought that when she graduated from high school {this past spring} I would look at the scribble filled pages with affection, but I find myself questioning why I kept random things like a school carnival flyer. 

In an attempt to be organize and not be overrun with paper, I created this system of sorting and storing my children’s school memories.

Paper Triage

With my younger two daughters {first and second graders} I perform paper triage every afternoon. In Marie Kondo fashion I ask myself, “Does this paper bring me joy?”. Being a writer, I love to keep everything they do in writer’s workshop {weekly writing assignments that many times include pictures}. I always keep praise letters from their teachers and any art that makes me laugh {in an uplifting way}. I rarely keep worksheets or things where they glue matching pictures to words. 

Trash or Treasure? How to Organize School Papers, Memories and Art

Tip :: remember those papers that did not make the cut need to go on the bottom of the recycling pile or underneath something else in the trash can. A lesson I learned and relearned many times. 

Don’t Forget to Label It

I always write the year, their grade and sometimes their name on every paper I am keeping. This is because I do not trust my brain to remember which child created the masterpiece. If I am on my A-game I will ask them to tell me about the picture and then write a caption on the back of their art. 

Trash or Treasure? How to Organize School Papers, Memories and Art

Temporary Storage

Once paper survives triage and is labeled, I then decide if it should go on the fridge for everyone to see or if it goes into my basket of things to file. The basket {or the top shelf of my bookcase} is where items sit until I get a burst of organization energy. Honestly, that energy did not show up last year and I am now working through a huge stack that taking up a shelf in my bookcase. But my goal for this school year to clear and organize that stack at least once a month and move the items into long term storage. 

Long Term Storage

Long term storage for me is a hanging file folder system inside a plastic storage box. I have hanging folders for each school year {kindergarten through twelfth grade}. I slide everything into the correct year, pop the lid on the container and store it in the top of their closet. At this stage in my life, I call getting the papers in the correct year a success. 

Trash or Treasure? How to Organize School Papers, Memories and Art

I also have a separate storage container for those items {like clay art projects} that do not fit into a file folder. 

Extra Credit Level

Just because I feel successful with the file folders doesn’t mean I don’t dream of a day when I’ll digitize each piece of paper. That, my friends, is the extra credit level. I give major props to moms who organize and put all their children’s memories {including school art work} into scrapbooks. To my husband’s dismay, I have purchased many of the Project Life sets in hopes of living that organized life, but for now, they sit in the corner of my office covered in a thin layer of dust. I am not shaming myself about it; it’s not part of my life right now. 

Our school really has cut back on paper. We no longer receive paper newsletters and the number of worksheets has considerably decreased over the last few years, but I still want a plan in place to deal with artwork.

How do you store your child’s school memories? Have you tried the filing system or do you scrapbook? 


Need more back-to-school tips? Check out The Ultimate Back to School Guide for Houston Moms!

The Ultimate Back-to-School Guide for Houston Moms | Houston Moms Blog


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