Organizing Kid’s Papers and Art Projects

Please welcome my guest today Colleen Garcia.  Colleen is a sponsor of this month’s organizing challenge (thanks Colleen!) and Clever Container Consultant.  I often get asked how to handle all the paper that kids bring home from school each day.  Colleen has some great tips!

With the joy of being a mother and getting to love on your children comes the challenge of having to deal with all of their ‘stuff’! One of the biggest organizational challenges that I hear from other mothers is how to handle the children’s papers and art projects.  As a mom of six, believe me, I can sympathize!  Managing paper is almost as daunting and unforgiving a task as laundry in my home.  {Almost}

I think it helps to identify the type of paper you are organizing.  There are papers that require action and then there are papers that require filing or storage.  These need to be handled differently.

Action Papers

Papers that children might bring home that require action include: permission slips to complete; a party invitation that requires a phone call, and then a trip to the store for a gift; school newsletters or classroom announcements telling of an upcoming event or day off.

In order to ensure that you don’t miss anything, you need to first decide on ONE place for these papers to live.  In our house, the active papers live in ‘the brown box’ in my kitchen (pictured).  This box is also where all papers land when they come into our house, either via our mail box, backpacks, work briefcases, etc.  These bins are collapsible so I can, in theory, tuck them away (IF it was ever completely emptied).

I check book bags when the children first arrive home.  I like to act on anything I am able to act on immediately.  Often the only thing required of me is to sign something and return it.  That happens right then and I place right back in the child’s bag.

However, sometimes there is a need to check the calendar, or discuss something with a spouse or a child.  There may be a need to write a check for an activity, team, or field trip.  Other times there is paper that gives me information that I need, but that I don’t need right now.  Those are the things that I’ll put it in my box.

I go through my box weekly, usually on Sunday afternoons.  I admit, however, that sometimes I end up looking for a paper mid-week.  That is alright though; at least I know that it is in the box.

Papers Requiring Filing/Storage

Papers that do not require action should be kept for a pre-determined amount of time and then discarded.  Some examples of this type of paper include: completed everyday assignments, art projects, contact lists for teams, or schedules and calendars.   Here are a couple of ideas for how to take care of these types of papers:

You can use open file holders on the desk or counter top, perhaps with a folder for each child or each type of activity.  Use pretty file folders to give it a pop.

Consider setting up monthly “Reminder”  files – a file for every month, for upcoming events, reminders, deadlines, etc. more than a month away (birthday party ideas and gift ideas are great to pop into monthly reminder files).  Consider setting up a portable filing system (pictured) that can be moved from room to room to allow you to go through papers at your leisure.

Also, if your young Picasso’s artwork and projects are frequent, one idea is to save them all to review twice a school year – like at winter break and again once the school year is over.  At that time, have your child pick their top 10.  To keep those pictures in between your review times, consider housing these pieces in colorful document boxes on a shelf that allows easy access for them to add to and/or look through.

Another great idea is to take a picture of the artwork or project.  You can print up and keep the photo as a memory (then you can toss the big cumbersome original).  Alternatively, you can create a memory book online by uploading these pictures to one of the numerous photo service companies.

My personal favorite product for displaying my children’s artwork isn’t even a Clever Container product (are you shocked?!)  The product I use (and love!) is those picture frames that allow you to display one piece of artwork while storing a bunch more within the frame itself.  Genius!!  ( I have four of these 9 x 12 and I have them in my long hallway – 2 hung portrait and 2 hung landscape (because the kids artwork can come home either way) I alternate the artwork displayed when they bring home special things they are proud of.

So, to recap: Action items are always contained in ONE location; Misc. papers are filed close at hand and attractively; and Artwork is displayed when possible, contained for a predetermined time, and then purged down to a reasonable amount a couple of times a year.


For more information about Colleen and the Clever Container line of products please visit Colleen’s website.

Filed under: Guest Bloggers, Kid Stuff


17 Responses to Organizing Kid’s Papers and Art Projects

  1. 1
    Michelle @ Getting Through the Day says

    Oh, Laura and Colleen. Just this morning I was thinking about all of the kids stuff that is just thrown into a cabinet I don’t dare to open rather than to stuff more child memorabilia into it. I’ve been debating about whether or not I want to tackle that project after I’m finished with this month’s organizational challenge. Paper storage is my definitely downfall, and I’ve been dreading the project for months (years?).

    • 1.1
      Colleen says

      Take heart Michelle! You are not alone. I think paper is a challenge even for those that consider themselves well organized. It just keeps coming. . . and coming. . . and coming. I’d recommend that you first get a game plan on what you want to do with paper going forward – then as new paper comes in, deal with it according to your new plan. Then, as time allows, take a small amount of those papers from the cabinet and deal with them. Maybe you can even just decide what you can purge from that ‘collection’ during a night of tv or movie watching. Baby steps. You’ll get there! 🙂

  2. 2
    Outsidetheboxmom says

    Colleen, thanks so much for the detailed tips. I get more paperwork from school than any other source. So, it’s essential to have a system in place from day one. I wrote a post about this at the beginning of the school year.

  3. 3
    Melissa says

    For kid art projects, I recommend storing them up for the year, and then in the summer (or during break) setting up a lightbox and taking nice photos of each art project. I think take those photos and create a photo book for the year. So I get to keep the memories and photos of their art, but I don’t have to store it anymore. I’ve used for my books, but I’m sure you could use any photo printing vendor. For the rest – I’m just going to pretend my house isn’t covered in paper.

  4. 4
    Shelly says

    Oh how I need this post! My kids are older, one is 19 and the other 15, but I have rubbermaid boxes FULL of artwork that I never knew what to do with. I didn’t want to throw it out. Now I would like to go through it all and take pictures of each item and then (maybe) I won’t feel so bad tossing them. The paper just keeps coming though, even if it is not in the form of children’s artwork, so I will be able to take these tips and put a system in place to deal with it. Awesome!

    • 4.1
      Colleen says

      I’m so glad that the pictures idea inspired you! 😉

  5. 5
    Sinea says

    I absolutely love document boxes…especially colorful ones! They make everything so neat and simple.

  6. 6
    Tara says

    I love that filing system! I had a cardboard one, but it just broke. I’m going to check out Colleen’s website to see if she sells that.

    I handle my paper clutter by scanning it into AboutOne. I’m able to store all of my medical records, warranty info, kids’ artwork, contact lists, and other stuff there. It makes a huge difference in the pile of papers on my end table.

    • 6.1
      Colleen says

      How did I miss this? Yes, we sell that – and it comes in brown, black, or pink! Email me at [email protected] and we’ll get you one!

  7. 7
    Elizabeth says

    I love the Dynamic Frames, but I wish they weren’t so expensive to ship to Canada. I’ve been coveting them for two years now… Sigh.

  8. 8
    More Than A Mom says

    I’m in the middle of tackling kids papers right now. I did a memory book for each of the children’s first year up to their first birthday and then I got an artist drawing book and used scrap-booking double-sided tape to add their art by year. So far it’s working well.

    • 8.1
      Colleen says

      Wonderful! The memory books and the art books are going to be cherished by you (and then someday by them – and their spouse!) I am sure!


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