3 Necessary Tools for Paper Organization

Please welcome my guest today, Carrie from My Favorite Finds.

I’ve been called the “Counter Police” by my beloved husband many times. I just can’t stand it when the kitchen counters are cluttered with appliances, dirty dishes, cell phone chargers, and SCHOOL PAPERS! It drives me absolutely insane!

Then, enter the cute, crafty, child like handwriting papers, first math tests, spelling tests…and the list goes on and on. Not to mention the papers that need to be signed and returned to school, the book orders, Market Day…and yes, that list goes on and on, doesn’t it?!

When my children were 3, and had started preschool, they would come home several days a week with a backpack of treasures. Macaroni necklaces, finger painted turkeys, Christmas trees full of glitter were sprawled on the counters, or nicely stacked to be “put away later”. Then, reality hit me. If I kept every paper, craft, and project that the twins brought home from school, our life would be buried in papers. And, I wouldn’t be able to find what needed to be returned to school.

Enter tool Number One: The trash can.

I know, it’s heartless to throw away my child’s art work-that paper covered with stickers or pencil marks. But in reality, I know it’ll be ok. When I look at my “Keeping Box” now, I am so thankful that I kept the creations that have their handprints on them, an “About Me” paper, or their snowman display that was proudly hung in the hallway by their teachers. I throw away most of their graded homework, random drawings, and a lot of literature that comes home from school. Just as we can’t keep every paper that enters our house, we can’t commit to every outside activity. Sometimes, if the paper is plain white copy paper that is blank on the back, I’ll use it to print coupons.

Tool Number Two: The Keeping Box.

In the “Keeping Box”, I have many school papers and creations I have decided are worth keeping. It might be the “Student of the Week” display we made, pieces of writing that show good effort and hard work, their grade cards and midterm reports, or even some notes from their teachers. The Keeping Box lives in our upstairs closet, and is a medium size moving box. As the year progresses, I set papers or creations into the Keeping Box, and then reevaluate over the summer. Sometimes things are weeded out then, sometimes they get put nicely back in the box. I also go to this box when I want to scrapbook a writing sample or another creation from school.

Tool Number Three: A plastic paper tray.

I have a plastic paper tray in our home office. In this tray goes book orders, Market Day order forms, sports pictures forms, etc. Anything that needs to be returned to school or revisited later goes in the paper tray. I revisit it 2 or 3 times a week to see what needs to be returned or what can be thrown away.

Thankfully, on the last day of school, the art teacher sends home a portfolio of all their artwork through the year. This typically contains 10-12 pieces of art, and it is already in a nice folder that the boys have decorated themselves. It stands up against the wall behind the Keeping Box. I recently took some pieces out to frame for the laundry room.

Storing papers, and keeping those school memories, definitely requires a balancing act. I think it’s important to be reasonable and realistic, without being coldhearted and wishy washy at the same time. What is the long term goal? A display at a graduation party? Scrapbook pages? Show your grandchildren their parents’ artwork someday? Keeping these in mind might help have peace of mind with choosing what to keep and what’s ok to throw away.

Carrie is a pastor’s wife, teacher, and mommy to 8 year old twin boys and a 2 year old princess. I love organizing, cooking, thrifting, and sharing my ideas with others on my blog, My Favorite Finds.


Filed under: Guest Bloggers, Paper Organization


20 Responses to 3 Necessary Tools for Paper Organization

  1. 1
    Jenne says

    I too only keep the things with their handprints, body sketches, etc. I originally was keeping all their art work from preschool but with 3 kids it got to be too much. I keep anything they write as well, i.e., poems, stories, books, because I know one day they will want to read their creativity and maybe even share it with their children. Recently my parents found a paper of mine and we all got a good laugh. I love the idea of a paper tray for the order forms. I have missed many “early bird” specials because the forms get lost with all the other papers. I will have to get one of those!! Thanks so much for all your wonderful ideas. I have been absolutely loving everything and I know my children are slowly learning how to be organized because of me (well, YOU actually)!

    • 1.1
      Carrie@My Favorite Finds says

      I love all the papers with their “body” on it…handprints, stories they write, etc. You are so sweet to teach your children organization. I really think it’s a skill a lot of kids lack as they grow up because their moms do it all for them, and they don’t learn its importance. I do tend to keep some early assessments and then some from later in the year. I want them to look back and see a lengthy Math or Reading test with a great compliment and a smiley face.

  2. 2
    chelsea says

    Very informative post but please, please, please recycle paper do not trash it! Just seeing the “trash can” used as a “tool” to rid ourselves of paper makes me uneasy feeling. We are not leaving a better world for our children when we throw away products that can easily be recycled instead of piling up in a landfill somewhere.

    • 2.1
      Pip says

      I was just going to say the same thing! LOVED the entire post and agree with not keeping everything..but please recycle! It’s not a tree hugger thing anymore lol.

    • 2.2
      Carrie@My Favorite Finds says

      Yes, I agree. I should’ve been a bit more clear…anything that has a plain back, I use through the printer for my coupons. I am sorry to make you feel uneasy. My hope in referring to the trash can was that it’s ok to not keep everything. You’re so very right. I should’ve written “recycling bin” :).

  3. 3
    raven says

    Our recelying center does not accept papers that have glue, materials, and paint on them, which means 99% of my kids trashed art stuff CAN’T be recycled. So I don’t bother with it.

    Written on papers, notebook sheets etc (not spirals) I do recycle with the newspapers and such.

  4. 4
    Melissa says

    One of my other favorite ideas is to take digital photos or scan most artwork and writings and just keep a few “originals”. You can then scrapbook the pictures or use them in a digital photo frame as a slide show, or just archive them digitally by year. I use a similar system to your trays, but mine is a desktop standing file box I got at an office store. I decorated the box to match our kitchen, and since it’s metal, use magnets on the outside for tickets and other small items. Inside, each family member has a hanging file folder as well as a folder for bills and one for coupons.

    • 4.1
      Carrie@My Favorite Finds says

      Yes, Melissa, that is a great idea. I also have gotten better with taking pictures and storing them digitally. That way, if something were to tragically happen to our memory box, I have the photos on Shutterfly or on our back up hard drive and the memories aren’t completely lost. I love the metal box idea you have. How smart to paint it to match your kitchen.

  5. 5
    Tina McGready says

    I had to laugh out loud at this post, when my children were younger my husband would not throw ANYTHING away (he still is somewhat like that but has gotten a little better) but if I tried to throw something away he would say “We can’t throw that away, it was made with their hands!!!!” LOL

  6. 6
    imie says

    I like the 3 tray idea. What I have is 3 basket trays. Top is IN, middle is PENDING, and bottom is OUT. Everything that I get goes in the IN, and when it needs more work before it gets completed – it goes to the PENDING, and anything that must go out, like – mail, books to return, giveaway, or to file.

  7. 7
    Carrie says

    Thank you, Laura, for allowing me space on your blog today. I am giddy!

  8. 8
    Claire @ Claire K Creations says

    Great tips. Paper seems to be one of the biggest clutter contributors in our house. It’s a tough one to get control of.

    • 8.1
      Carrie @ My Favorite Finds says

      I know, Claire. Isn’t that so true! Then you add the mail, coupons, ads, etc….and it’s a huge pile!

  9. 9
    More Than A Mom says

    I am going through my “keepsakes” box this month. I am starting by organizing it by year (starting in 2003 – yikes!). Thankfully the kids only came along in 2006 and 2008. For more recent years I am organizing things by year and by child. I’m going to make memory books for each of them and I’m sorting it by year until school years make it more relevant to do it by grades. I’d like to do a first one for Christmas but first I need to keep going through the bin to organize things by year. I was going to use freezer bags with sticky notes for the first stab at sorting and then go from there.

    Thanks for the inspiration!

    • 9.1
      Carrie @ My Favorite Finds says

      I think the large bags with sticky notes is a good idea. Another thing I’ve been doing the last two years or so, is dating the back of the paper I’m saving with the month and year so I don’t forget. I scrapbook, and one thing I try to do is do the most recent memory keeping first. I have 3 years of Disney pictures to scrapbook, but I will start with this past trip and work my way back. I think your system sounds awesome.

  10. 10
    Heather says

    Each of my kids has a school work box in their closets, they are just plastic file boxes that I got from Wallyworld. All grade cards, important reports, written work, or exceptional artwork goes into them. Some of the larger artwork we take pictures of and store the pictures in a small scrapbook that stays in the box. Sometimes I let them make the decision whether they want to keep something. Most graded work gets recycled…usually paper starter for the fire pit.

    These boxes are small enough and stackable enough that having more than one per kid will not be a big problem, and since they live in the kids closets there is no clutter for me to see.

    • 10.1
      Carrie @ My Favorite Finds says

      That is a really good idea! I agree, when you can just close their closet doors, it’s fabulous!

  11. 11
    Sinea says

    Love the liberation of #1 being the trash can! I love the trash can! Another blogger once suggested laminating precious childmade works of art to use as placemats…great idea but you can only use so many placemats. Many items need to be admired and then visit tool #1

    • 11.1
      Carrie @ My Favorite Finds says

      Absolutely. Our house would be an episode of “Hoarders” if we kept every paper! Besides, they also make good grandparent gifts when you put the kids’ artwork in a frame!


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