The Avalanche of Papers


When my daughters started preschool, I was unprepared for the sheer volume of papers that came home in their folders.

By the time they were in first grade, I needed a support group to cope.

That year we had a blue folder that came home only on Mondays with “official” school notices and weekly behavior charts that needed to be signed. The green “homework” folder came home daily – one side with graded homework to take out, the other side to add that night’s homework and return. There was a red folder as well, but I’ve managed to block out the purpose of that folder.

Feeling overwhelmed, I tried several methods of organizing and finally hit on one that works for me. On the off chance it might work for you, let me save you a little time and agony.


1. Establish a designated spot for nightly folder review.

I use a three pile method. Pile one is for forms or papers that needed to be filled in, signed and returned to school. I do those immediately so that I only have to touch them once. Pile two is the “toss” pile. This pile includes the many many workbook pages completed by my children and notices from school. Add important dates to the calendar and toss the notices. Pile three is the “keep” pile. More on this later.

2. Immediately put the signed papers and forms back in the folders and put the folders in the backpacks.

My husband has a rule that I try hard to follow. He insists that my daughters get everything ready for school at night. The morning goes much more smoothly when backpacks are ready and shoes can be located without a search party.

3. Have a box or bin where you toss the “pile three” papers to keep.

Every three months or so, go through these papers.  Here’s where the rubber meets the road. Select a few test papers or projects to keep and toss the rest. I purchase these Sterilite containers and am ruthless about what I keep. And if you are the label maker type, make labels for your boxes.

Sterilite containers
Sterilite containers
Label the boxes!
Label the boxes!

4. Hands down, the champion of clutter is art work.

In my experience, PreK 4 through first grade are the manic art years.  Even if your children are gifted artists and you find it hard to part with their masterpieces, you would need a storage unit to keep all the art that comes home from school. I found two systems that work for me. First, repeat number 3 above with the art work. Then purchase a decorative three ring binder and some plastic sheet protectors. Write your child’s name and the date on the back of the artwork, put it in the sheet protector and add it to the binder. For large or 3D artwork, take a photo of the artwork and toss it after they go to sleep. Be sure to bury it deep in the garbage can; kids can spot their discarded treasures from across the kitchen. Then in a few years, you can make a wonderful photo book of all your child’s artwork as a keepsake. And be sure to get a few photos of your child proudly holding the artwork.

purchase a decorative three ring binder
purchase a decorative three ring binder
and some plastic sheet protectors!
and some plastic sheet protectors


  1. Love your tips, Elizabeth! Your comment about burying the discarded art work deep in the trash so the kiddos can’t find it literally made me laugh out loud 🙂 …my little one is just 3 & our art work is already stacking up from daycare. I will definitely be putting these tips to use. THANKS!!

  2. This is such a great idea! My daughter started preschool this week and she’s under 2 and already has brought home a ton of art work. I am the opposite of a pack rack and have already thrown away 2 pieces. My husband fussed at me over it but really? If I kept everything, we’d have stuff packed up to the ceiling. I love the ideas of taking pictures and putting everything in a box and going through it later. Genius!

  3. I might as well apply your tips, Elizabeth. In every corner of our homes you will see lots of scattered papers of artworks, textbooks, and the like. And every time I clean it, the kids are just keep on looking where they’re papers are, so another messy time.


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