Stop Drowning in the Paper that Kids Bring Home from School… Every. Single. Day.

I have 5 school aged kids. 5 kids lugging home crafts, projects, tests, photos, notebooks, and journals from school. 5 kids needing forms signed, tests reviewed, homework checked. Even in this digital age, there are still papers literally piling up on every flat surface of my house.  

For years, I was  swimming in my kids’ school paperwork. Paralyzed by sentimental feelings, I kept everything. And I mean everything. I kept math worksheets, ABC practice papers, all art regardless of size, quality, or repetition (my kids went through a phase where they only drew animals–specifically fish, which turned out to be hilarious as the dorsal fins were somehow forgotten).

But I digress. Back to the paper problem: I had large plastic bins filled with school related papers or art items made by my children hidden in all corners of the house; I had desk drawers barely shutting or protruding with paper (not to mention the top of the desk was covered in paper as well). And as a result of keeping all of this paperwork and art work –I was late signing important forms for kids. I mixed the important papers–e.g. the field trip forms and medical forms–with the accumulated everyday school papers.  This created lots of headaches and lots of time searching for missing forms.

I finally came to a realization that all of this paper does not need to be kept– instead just a few meaningful items from each school year are enough. Dealing with school paper clutter and finding a solution has been an ongoing struggle, but my solution after much trial and error has lead to success. My solution involves a photo box and expanding file folder. I bought a photo box and accordion file folder for each child. The photo box holds all photos that are not school related–photos from various sports, activities, parties and events.   

And the accordion folder is for their school work from preschool to high school graduation. (FYI there is a lot less paper coming home from high school. High school paperwork has been awards, photos and art work).


Anything that is too big to fit into the accordion file folder is digitally remembered and printed to fit into the file folder. My plan once each of my children graduates from high school is to present the photo box and accordion file folder as gifts to each of my children–almost like a time capsule of their greatest hits from school as well as a record of their achievement from transitioning from childhood to adulthood. (FYI, I bought my file folder and photo boxes on Amazon, they were fairly inexpensive). I am hoping to sort through the inside of the folder and make a pretty cover for the box before it is given. (Luckily I have a few years). This is what the accordion file looks like opened:

There is ample room in this expanding file folder to accumulate a pre-k through 12th grade collection of writing and art samples. 

Some additional tips to combat the paperwork deluge on the home front: 

  1. Have a place to display tests/artwork. Kids bring home papers every single day.  They want to feel proud of their work. What I do is display papers on a bulletin board in the kitchen so all family members can see. 
  2. Pitch unnecessary school papers immediately. Any homework or old test sheets that are no longer needed should immediately go into the recycle bin. 
  3. Sign any forms as soon as you get them and give them back to the respective child to return to school. 
  4. When it is time to switch out the art on bulletin board, think about if this item is really worth keeping. A lot of times, especially in preschool and early elementary school, the art is made mainly by a teacher or teacher helper. I only keep items that my children made primarily on their own. And once the art is taken down from the bulletin board, I either pitch it or place it in the accordion file folder. 
  5. The camera on your phone is your friend. If you are unsure about keeping or pitching an item, take a picture of it. This is especially helpful for poster board projects and 3D projects that don’t fit into the accordion file folder.
  6. Young children have trouble parting with their art work (many times my youngsters have fished out some paper out of the recycling bin and reprimanded me for trying to get rid of their stuff). So cover your tracks when you get rid of their paper stuff. 

What tips do you have in dealing with the influx of school paper or artwork?