You know that dreaded feeling when the kids go back to school and the papers start to flood in? Or on the last week of school when all.the.papers start coming home? It’s inevitable, overwhelming, and expected. Instead of being surprised, I choose to have a simple method for filing papers and artwork all year long. This keeps things from getting out of hand and it also gives us a plan. This isn’t the ‘right’ way to do things, it’s just how I figured it out – I hope it helps you to come up with a plan for paper too!

I have three kids – two in elementary school and one in middle school – this system has been in place for about 8 years and I can tell you that it works with one, two, and now three kids in school. You should also know that I was an art teacher for almost 10 years so I have a true love for kids’ artwork and my kids’ artwork is no different. This is how and what we save….

I have a couple rules in place for the kids’ papers (this is just what we do, feel free to come up with your own rules):

  • KEEP anything with a handprint or fingerprints
  • Limit the AMOUNT of what we keep – each kid gets a hanging file folder for each school year
  • Go through papers that we keep TOGETHER – this ensures important pieces to both of us are kept.

Here are our 3 essentials for organizing kids’ papers + memorabilia:

Stackable Letter Tray

This is where we keep the daily stuff – if something needs to be filed, needs to be filled out, or needs attention but not today. The kids each have their own file and they are in charge of what’s in the file. I help them sort through it when it gets full or if I’m remembering a permission slip for a field trip and go looking for it. Looking for something similar? Find it here.

Why this works: This gives the in-process papers a home every day and keeps them off the counters, and out of the bottom of backpacks.

Covered File Box

Each kid gets a covered file box with 13 hanging file folders – one for each year, pre-k-12th grade. I bought red, yellow, and blue hanging file folders for the kids – they each have their own color. During the year we put special papers, things with handprints, grades, and other items that we want to keep. Usually during the first week of summer we go through the folder together and assess what we want to keep longer.

Why this works?  This forces us to keep just a small selection of favorites and curate them throughout the year. Some day they might not want them but we look through them a couple times a year.


There’s always artwork that’s too big to put in our file boxes so each kid has an archival giant portfolio that hangs out under their bed or in their closet. This is for those precious large pictures and artwork.

Why this works?  I’m sure in 10 years we won’t hold on to everything in this portfolio but for right now I like having it to look at and the kids enjoy going back through the years via their artwork.

My eBook, The Clutter Handbook has a whole section devoted to paper clutter if you found these tips helpful you’ll probably like my approach to clutter and paper clutter.


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