Seven years ago I shared on the blog my method for storing and organizing all those school papers that the kids bring home….everything from art and pictures in the younger days to award certificates and favorite essays in the later years. At that time I used memory binders to keep things organized but a number of years ago I switched to the file box method instead. The reason I switched was simple, I wanted to fit all the school years into one container. The memory binders worked well until I realized only four or five years would fit into one binder. I didn’t like that so I switched to having one file box per kid and it has worked so amazingly well plus it’s easy to maintain which is always key to any organizational system.
The front of each of my file boxes has a chalkboard label that I write each child’s name on. For privacy reasons, I’ve erased those names for this post.
I use the Really Useful Boxes brand in the 19L file box size which you can find on Amazon HERE (affiliate link) for less than $15 each. You can also find them at stores like Staples as well as Walmart (sometimes). I also saw at Costco, just this past weekend here in Canada, these file boxes below that are currently available. Two for $12.99 which is a super great deal. You might want to look for them in your area.
With the boxes I own, the ledge around the outside allows you to hang hanging file folders from it. I used 14 hanging file folders in mine so I had one folder for each grade beginning with Pre-K through to Grade 12. My daughter graduated high school last year and all her years of papers fit nicely into one file box along with some extra things like her piano note duotangs and a few special journals that she wanted to keep. Now that I’ve seen this particular system through to the end, I can honestly say that I am really happy with it. Do keep in mind that each of my kids also each have a memory tote in their closets for all the special things they accumulated prior to starting school from their baby and toddler days mostly….things like special outfits, blankets, their baby book, larger art pieces etc.
So for 18 years of keepsakes, one tote and one file box is pretty good I think. We’ve had to be very selective over the years and only keep the really special items. My kids play a huge role in this and actively assisted with choosing what it was they wanted to keep, after all I store these items for them to look back on and enjoy in the future. I was often surprised by the differences between what I thought they’d want to keep and the things they actually did. It also helps them learn to practice their decision making skills early on. By having a limiting container, you can lay out all the art pieces for instance and say “we have room to store three art pieces, can you pick your three very favorite ones?”.
Here’s the thing, you can’t possibly keep everything. The goal here is to select key pieces that highlight the year and what it meant to them, what they were most proud of and would want to show their own children one day. In the younger years this is much harder but gradually it does get easier as they naturally bring home less and less stuff.
As a side note, two special things I like to include with each grade is their school photo of course but also a copy of our annual Christmas card family photo that shows how they’ve grown from year to year.
Each of the hanging file folders are labeled with each school grade. I simply used a free printable off the internet and then placed them inside of the clear plastic label holder tabs (these will often come with the hanging folders).
Update: I can’t remember where I found the particular printable labels I used but I created some free printables for you that you can find in this updated post HERE.
It’s such an easy system to maintain because as papers come home you simply file the keepers into the appropriate file. HOWEVER, that only works if you keep the file boxes within easy access otherwise it’s just another step to get to as you watch the papers pile up. I didn’t have anywhere to store my file boxes where I could quickly get to them so I do store them in each of the kid’s closets. It would be a pain for me to go all the way downstairs to file one paper, honestly I don’t think I would have done it. SO I came up with an easy solution to fix that. In my office, which is on the main floor, I have a Command Center beside my desk. You might remember when I posted about it last year.
Here I added file folders for each of the kids and I collect the papers there throughout the year. Then at the end of the school year I sit down with the folder and each kid and we go through it together to really pick out the favorites. It’s easier for them to choose favorites when they can see the entire year laid out before them.
I hope this gives you some ideas for storing and organizing your kids’ school papers. Don’t make it more complicated than it needs to be and if you struggle with maintenance, evaluate why and tweak your system as necessary as I did above.
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