How I Organize Our Kids' School Work That They Bring Home- Year After Year

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When I was a kid, my Dad saved everything. My Mom jokes that if my sister or I so much as sneezed in a tissue, our father saved it. Every art project, every “A” test or homework assignment, every sports write up in the newspaper, every award, letter, accolade. It went straight into THE BIN. But as the years went by, one bin became two. Then it became three, four, five. And by the time my parents were cleaning out the garage in 2015 and ready to pass along all of my things…the bin count had rose to 6 or 7, full of my childhood, teenage, and college relics.

As thoughtful and wonderful it is to have your parents love you and want you to be able to look back on your life and see it all there…7 bins of your past is overwhelming. My sweet Dad had the best of intentions- but what was I supposed to do with all of this STUFF?

If you have kids…then you too have STUFF! All the stuff! Projects, drawings, tests, homework, a mountain of things they bring home from school day after day, year after year.

And you too might be asking yourself-

What do I do with all of this STUFF?

Personally, I want to save important things and document like my thoughtful Dad did, but without bestowing a huge amount of stuff upon our kids. I want it all to be organized and pleasing to the eye- more of a curated celebration of the past than a heavy burden of items and memories they’ll one day feel bad throwing away. Additionally, I am not a scrapbooker nor do I have time to create elaborate memory books- so I want a simple system that works for both the creator and the receiver, and simplifies the memory keeping process.


Here’s my solution-

First, you need the following items:

  1. One bin per child- these are weathertight and the best I’ve found for this purpose.

  2. Expandable folders with labels- expandable is key so you can fit a good amount of items in each folder.

  3. A discerning eye and ready-to-toss attitude ;)

If you’re starting from scratch, you can go back and do this from the beginning. If that feels too overwhelming just start THIS year.

Here are the sections I use-

Newborn- this includes all of the stuff from birth- a ziploc with their hospital items, special hat they wore after they were born, any of the keepsakes that aren’t in their baby books.

Baby- anything from their baby days through preschool- special 1sts, cards from family and friends, artwork.

Then each school year has a folder: Preschool, Pre-K, Kindergarten, 1st grade, etc.


What goes in these folders?

All schoolwork I want to save. Artwork. Any sports photos from that year. School photos from that year. Progress reports and report cards. One of the family Christmas cards we sent out that year. Any special birthday cards from family or friends. I also write them a letter on the eve of their birthdays that I place in the folder.

Each folder is a snapshot of their year- I want it to represent what they did, what they created, how they spent their time.

How do I decide what to keep and what to toss?

As far as schoolwork, I keep anything that is growth specific- artwork made from their handprint, special milestone things, most pieces of creative writing. I try to think about what I would like to look at now, and toss or keep through that lens.

Hank and I also have a bin we share, and I label the folders by year. In each of the folders goes that year’s Christmas card, any special cards/pictures from the kids, handmade presents that aren’t on a shelf but I want to preserve, cool business accomplishments or in-print mentions, letters from family/friends worth saving, really anything notable from that year.


How do I organize this throughout the year?

I file probably once a week. Each day the boys come home with a folder from school. Almost everything will go to the recycle bin, but if there is something to save I’ll place it in a folder on my desk. Once a week I’ll take that folder, pull the bins out from the closet (I store them in a handy, easy to access place) and file what I’ll be keeping.

The goal is to create a curated keepsake box for each child that is organized, while providing a pleasant trip down memory lane if they choose to take one!

I hope this helps, and gives you a bit of inspiration on how to start your own organization system if you don’t already have one in place! As always, let me know what questions you have.


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