I’m a single mom of four kids and have an organizational question for you . . . I’m like your husband Dave and crave neatness and no clutter… Just wondering what you do about school work/memorabilia that you want to keep, and how you limit it and organize it. It’s the end of the school year here (year-round school) and I’m dealing with the inevitable bring-it-all-home syndrome. They’re proud of their “stuff” and want to keep everything and I either throw things away when they’re not looking (and reap the tearful consequences later) or stash it to deal with later (which never comes). Thus, I am beginning to have a nice little collection and piles of paintings, essays, piano recital programs, etc., etc. Figured you had dealt with this and just wondered what your system is.

I thought this was a good question for today since we spent all weekend organizing our filing system around here. My kids brought things like this home from school on the last day:
Yeah, ummmm, you seriously carried that bag around all year, Elle?

This was in Max’s backpack (along with a whole bunch of other paraphernalia):
Yeah, we could have maybe gone and bought him a new folder…

My Dad will be pleased as punch to see that he carried this around for the last month or so of school:Anyway, all this junk in backpacks used to overwhelm me until my friend Nichole gave me my filing idea. (Thanks, Nichole!)

Now I LOVE to go through their stuff because I know what to do with it.

First of all, through the year whenever the kids bring something great home from school I stash it in my file drawer in my desk: I don’t know if you can tell from that picture but there’s a hanging folder titled “Kids’ School” and inside it I have a manilla folder for each child. I put sports stuff in there and ticket stubs too…whatever fun things they may love to look back on and reminisce some day.

At the end of the year I meet with each child individually and we gather their folder from my drawer as well as their backpacks which are plumb-full of “stuff” and we go through it all together. The toughest thing is to find enough time to set aside to do this but it is some serious quality time. I LOVE finding the notes and journals they’ve kept and getting to peek into that “other world” that separates them from me so much of the year. And they love having the one-on-one school-wrap-up-attention.

This was one of my fav. things I found this year:(Posted with permission from both girls. πŸ™‚

Oh man does that bring back the good old Jr. High memories or what? I LOVE getting that glimpse into school.

We pull down each child’s file folder box (they each have their own that we keep hidden away in top shelves of closets during the year) and file the stuff they deem “valuable” to keep. They only get one hanging folder for each year up to 12th grade so they really can’t keep a whole ton.

See that one that says “Kindergarten” below? There are folders like that for every grade.
Here’s a better look at Max’s:
When they come home with something too big to keep that they love we just take a picture of it:
That makes them feel like we really are “keeping” it without filling up their boxes…especially if I post that picture on this blog πŸ™‚

Hope that helps!

Love, Shawni

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  1. this blog better not go anywhere – I'm saving favorite links for when my 7-month-old (and her future slew of siblings) is old enough to put these great ideas to use! Thanks for fitting blogging into your hectic life!

  2. First, I should start with, I make Blurb books (www.blurb.com) for each year for each of my kids, and one for the family.

    I scan my kids memorabilia from school. As I am working on their blurb books, I will add the items from school along with the other pictures I've taken and what nots that fill their books.

  3. Paper management is a toughy since it flows in so heavily and steadily from all ends! I also think it's important to save items that add to the whole picture of a child's life and school year. At the same time, dislike clutter and don't have lots of space for keeping all the great, memorable stuff.

    So… I use a ScanSnap (a really fast feed scanner) to scan most of my kids' papers. I label each scanned file with the year-month-day and a brief description of what it is, and file it on my computer (the kids each have a folder on my computer). I also take pictures of the larger items. This way, we can still save all of those memories without taking up so much physical space. And of course, it's all backed up on hard drives, etc.

    I love the idea of adding these items to the kids' scrapbooks, which can be done digitally and then printed in a nice book. I haven't gotten that far, but with everything documented and filed chronologically, we are ready to take that next step. πŸ™‚

  4. So great. Thank you! One of mine starts kindergarten next year, and I can't wait to sit down with her and do her file folder (well, I can wait . . . time goes too fast, but you know what I mean).

  5. wow. that is an awesome system you have. As soon as I get some filing boxes I will attempt to set it up.
    Thank you, Shawni!

    enjoy your holidays. We are knee deep in the school year here – only half way in for the year, and as a teacher I am drowning in my report writing!!

  6. I love this Shawni! I am the oldest of 5 children and we could have ABSOLUTELY used a system like this. My mom has boxed and boxed of random school stuff from all 5 of us EVERYWHERE in our garage! Thanks for sharing and thanks to you friend Nichole for the idea too! This is so great! I don't have kids yet but I just showed my husband this and he said we are definitely going to do this! Thanks again! So awesome!

  7. I'm the mom who asked the question – thank you so much for taking the time to share! Very practical and manageable. This will be my post-vacation project this summer. Lots of catching up to do but it will be worth it. Thanks again!

  8. Almost weird reading this since I just did pretty much EXACTLY this process with my kids on Thursday. I guess sisters from the same family are going to come up with a lot of the same ideas! The only thing we do differently is that we have a binder for each two school years and we use page protectors and the pockets in the binders to store all their most special thing. Each kid gets one of those 1.5 inch binders to hold 2 years worth of school stuff. They can only keep what can fit in that binder and that seems to be plenty for them (plus we photograph and store in digital folders the stuff that's too big for the binder). I like how this process leaves us with a pretty slim, nicely organized set of school stuff and all the binders sit nicely on a shelf. And they kids love to get out their binders from previous years and see how far their handwriting and artwork has come.

  9. I love this idea and have read the post several times gearing up to get it done with my 4 kids. I will have a lot of catch up to do, but figure I should at least start with this year.

    One question: what do you do with the photos of the too big stuff? Do they just get dropped in the file or is there a separate place to keep them?

    BTW: Your friend Amy B. is my sister and has referred me to your blog on numerous occasions!–look at this–check out this paint, etc.

  10. Me again–did this with my kids yesterday (all afternoon). Did a total of 11 years worth of school–whew!! Couldn't be happier–thanks for sharing. What I bought for the picture was a page protector thing divided into 3 sections so I can put 6 photos in each and drop them in the file. I also put their report cards in–not sure if that's where you keep yours, but I didn't see it mentioned in the post. Also, hope it's okay that I put this on my Pinterst board! Let me know if you'd rather me no pin anything else.

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