Do you remember in Lord of the Rings when the large and powerful tree creatures, the Ents, laid waste to everything? That scene came to life at my house when my kids started school. Trees… or tree products… were laying waste to my house. The papers. The crazy, crazy school papers were slowly sucking the life out of me. So, I did a ton of research and combined a few different methods to come up with this super easy way to organize kids’ school papers at home.
It works because it’s simple and it’s easy to find what you’re looking for.
Step 1 – Create an Inbox
Set up an inbox in an easily accessible location. I’m talking EASY. Put the box as close to the natural place where paper clutter falls as possible. If you don’t like that location, train everyone to put their papers in a box there and then move it to its final (still accessible) resting place.
All paper goes in this box, school papers, receipts, papers you find lying around the house, mail you can’t process immediately.
Step 2 – Process Your Inbox Regularly
I do a big inbox process weekly but every night before bed I scan through the new items to see if there’s anything that needs to be dealt with immediately. This saves me from missing any field trip forms or important notes home from teachers.
Step 3 – Create Monthly Files
Place papers in these files that will be needed in a specific month. For example, if you have an info sheet about band camp in August, it goes in the August folder. If you have tickets to the 8th grade dance in June, they go in the June folder. When your child brings home a sheet to track their reading for the next three months, put it in the current month’s folder and move it from month to month until it’s due.
Check the current month folder at least weekly to make sure you’re using and completing everything that needs to be used and completed. At the end of the month, empty and move the previous month to the back of the files so the current month is always front and center.
As a bonus, I also keep things like concert tickets and Father’s Day cards in these monthly folders, anything I will need in a specific month.
Step 4 – Create General Files for Each Kid
Each child’s general file will contain things that pertain to the current school year but don’t have a specific due date. For example, class website passwords could go in this file. You could also include the school directory, class rules and expectations, or emergency procedures.
It’s important that each child have her own general file. Then, when she asks you, “What was the rule about spaghetti straps at school?” you can go straight to her file and check in her school rule book.
Step 5 – Create a Schoolwork File for Each Kid
Teachers are human and they sometimes make grading mistakes. If this happens, it’s nice to have all the year’s assignments on file to show that, “Look, Jim-Bob actually turned in that assignment. I’ve got your smiley face stamp right here to prove it.”
The second reason I keep everything until the end of the year is that I may not know immediately what constitutes a “treasure”. At the end of the year, I can sort through all the papers of forever and keep the things that matter most.
Eventually, “treasures” go into their treasure bins and documents like report cards and admissions records go into the filing cabinet.
Step 6 – Create a Treasures File for Each Kid
Some papers are forever. When you’re going through your kids’ school papers and art projects each week, pull out the special gems. Write the date on each one and add them to a folder labeled with the child’s name and “Treasure.”
Of course, you will need to store your kids’ important school papers and treasures somewhere long term. I’m still working on a quality solution for this. If you have one, I’d love to hear it. Right now I’ve got a box full of treasures for each kid and a file in my filing cabinet for important school papers for each kid. At the end of each school year, I clean out these school files and put things in more permanent storage.
This filing system has gotten me through the last couple of years beautifully with kids going to multiple schools. I hope it works for you. If you have other solutions to keep the paper clutter at bay, please share with me below! I’m always refining my processes.
Keeping things organized is key to maintaining balance in your life. Check out these other great organization tips and tricks: