HDYDI: School Papers

If I hadn’t implemented something, then I surely would have been buried alive by the mountain of school paperwork.  It just keeps coming, and coming, and coming…

I did have a loose filing system and it was working pretty decent, but then I stumbled onto the bestest blog evah.  Iheartorganizing.  Go ahead, click that link.  Your cluttered life may never be the same.  She had a brilliant suggestion for managing the paperwork, showing off the school photo and writing down the important things – all in ONE place.  I die.

I spent the better part of a week sorting through 17 years (all the kids’ school years, plus three years of PK) to get the system up and running.  Yes, I realize like that sounds slightly off kilter, but it was so worth the 20 or so hours I put into it.  I’m saving so much time now it’s not even funny.  In addition to saving and filing the paperwork, we also have some suggestions for managing it as it comes in the door.  Here’s how we do it 🙂


1.  When my kids walk in the door from school, there is a system.  Backpack: hung up on the pegs just inside the house.  Lunchsacks: cleaned out and put on the counter for refilling (we recently got rid of all plastic sacks and are using reusable BPA free plastic inserts from PK Kids).  Water bottles:  refilled and put in the fridge for the next day.  Uniforms:  thrown in the laundry basket or hung up to wear again (no, I am not above my kids rewearing perfectly {almost} clean clothes!!).  Folders:  put on the kitchen island where I review the contents.  Which brings us to #2.

2.  Keep it, trash it, recycle it.  I decide in THAT moment to do one of the three.  It it’s kept, I put it in a pile and on the weekend I file all those papers in their boxes (I’ll get to that in a minute).  If it’s something that can’t be recycled, then I trash it.  You can’t keep it all folks.  The “keep” stuff is usually a special art project, a first spelling or math test, a book report or something that I know will really speak to what they’ve learned that year.

3.  At the end of the school year, I go through the “keep” file one more time and recycle some more.  Purging more than once is totally necessary…at least in our house.

4.  Employ the “touch it once” philosophy.  If there is a paper to be signed or returned to school, I do it right then and either put it in the respective child’s backpack or in the front seat of my van for further action by me.  That has saved many a “ARG” moments when we can’t find something.

5.  It really depends on the day and the after school sports/academic activity, but we typically change clothes, eat a snack then dive into homework.  I’ve tried not changing and eating and doing homework first.  Fail.  Do not attempt.  Will is usually okay to do his homework by himself with just review by me.  The other two need a bit more direction and help.  Everyday is a new experiment in temperment control – by all of us 🙂  As soon as they’re done, the homework goes back in the folder and into the backpack.

6.  Sometimes the kids need a paper, but don’t need to keep it in the backpack, but filing it away is just a hassle.  So, we employed the homework desk folder which allows for quick access to something.  It’s great.  Each kiddo has their own file and keeps things like quarterly sight word lists, information for PSIA (private school academic competition) or football plays 🙂

7.  The individualized file boxes I bought were money well spent.  Yes, I went to my happy place to find these.  Thank you Container Store.  They are roomy, see-through, organized and airtight.  I actually modified these a bit from the samples on the iheartorganizing blog (hey, it’s what graphic designers do) by adding a “PK2 and PK3” folder and I made my own labels to put in the front.  It took some time to set it all up, but now I’m done ’til college.

I think the biggest lesson I’ve learned with multiple kids in multiple activities and grades is this:  deal with it the moment you get it.  Sometimes you can’t, but if you make that your MO, you will live a much less stressed after school hour.


  1. Anonymous on September 16, 2011 at 3:05 am

    Easy peasy way to "collect" all that artwork? Take a digital photo of it and file it away on the computer. Should you ever want a hard copy- wait for a photo book coupon from an online photo website and print out your faves.

  2. Get it Together in 2012 on December 25, 2011 at 11:31 pm

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  3. Suzanne on January 22, 2012 at 8:43 pm

    So funny, I am reading your post on Catholic Mothers Online and saw the binder. I thought to myself, “That looks like Jen’s folders.” Great minds…

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  6. AdelaRogers on August 23, 2013 at 10:46 pm

    Kathryn, where did you find the green patterned paper-covered boxes in item 6 above? I need just that kind of thing to store files in a bookcase! They’re great looking!

    • Kathryn on August 24, 2013 at 6:39 pm

      That’s the way the box came! It was a find from The Container Store. I love it!

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