School Paper Organization (or Lack Thereof) – An Update

Back in August I posted about my attempt to find a solution for storing school papers and keeping them organized. With three kids in school, the amount of paper that comes through this house is ridiculous, even after you subtract the few newsletters than come via e-mail. I suspect our elementary school is single-handedly killing billions of trees each year.

In the first post, I showed you a lovely and somewhat unrealistic photo of four magazine file boxes neatly lined up on my clean kitchen counter. I think that pristine look lasted six minutes.

I haven’t given up on the system, but we had to make a few tweaks. Here are some of the issues.

1. Location is iffy. The location is both perfect and horrible. It’s in the kitchen, where I spend the bulk of my day, so I can’t forget about the boxes easily. They are accessible to the kids. The problems are that the boxes are by the back door, but the kids come home from school through the front door, and that the counter is a dumping ground for all the other mail and junk and random papers than come through the house, as well. So those magazines I’ve been meaning to recycle, the coupons I clipped, and the bills we need to pay end up piled in front of the boxes. Which makes them less accessible. I now share with you an embarrassing cell phone photo of what these boxes looked like last week before I went on a mad organizing spree in preparation for a play date.

This was a particularly bad moment in my housekeeping history, but it shows that this spot attracts lots of paper. I suppose I need to find something to contain the non-schoolwork papers so I don’t end up with this unsightly pile week after week. In the meantime I’m keeping the school paper boxes because I still think it’s the best spot in the house for them.

2. The kids didn’t know how to use them. This is my fault. They aren’t mind-readers, they can’t automatically know what they’re supposed to do with these boxes. In the beginning I wasn’t even sure how to use them. At first I had the kids shove any and all papers into their respective boxes, which they did. But it was too hard to quickly find homework or permission slips among the already-graded tests and worksheets that had been returned. So now the “House” box is behind the kids’ boxes, and that is where they are supposed to put their graded papers. The “House” box is intended for papers that don’t need immediate action and we don’t even necessarily need to keep. The boxes with the kids’ names are for homework that needs to be completed, permission slips or other forms that need to be signed or completed, and important information the kids need to keep, like class schedules or calendars. That way I know when I look at those file holders (if I can behind the pile of other junk) and see papers there I know something needs to be done with them now rather than later. Which makes it harder to ignore them, and that’s a good thing.

3. Zachary and I slacked off. Yes, we’re the final problem. We don’t do a good enough job of keeping the kids’ boxes cleaned up. We don’t always check it right away to see if there’s something we need to sign. So I’m making a more conscious effort to not just look at the boxes every day but also recycle the papers we don’t need to keep, save the especially cute or insightful completed homework (in clear totes stored in the basement, one for each child). The kids can’t learn to stay organized if Zachary and I can’t set a good example, and that’s one major thing I’m working on this year.

In the last week we’ve managed to keep the school paper area looking better. But it was spring break, so we had it easy. I’m thinking we may need one more file folder now. I’ll make the “House” folder for grown-up papers like bills and recipes I need to put away and such, and I’ll get another box dedicated to graded papers and artwork that Zachary and I need to review before purging.

It’s not perfect, but it’s working fairly well, and hopefully by the time the kids graduate from high school we’ll have it down.

What do you do to stay on top of school papers? I’d love more ideas and suggestions, so comment here or link to your own blog posts about managing the paper beast.



  1. We have wire file hollers that we hang on the wall in the kitchen -one for each kid and an extra for junk to deal with later (because I’m a procrastinator). It works to an extent. If its really important it goes on the fridge.

  2. I look forward to seeing how this goes… My desk looks identical to your before picture and has for…. oh….. 10 years. 😉 I will have to take a picture and make you feel better!

  3. Reblogged this on These Three Things and commented:
    I ran across this blog post about organizing school papers…. her before picture of her desk looks like mine right now only probably more organized. How do YOU organize your papers?

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