Guest Blogger,  Housekeeping

How to Organize School Papers and Other Mementos

Special Note: This article is part of an intentional home series by Davonne Parks, author of Chaos to Clutter-Free. To view the rest of the articles in this series, go here.

A reader once asked me, “What do you do with all of your children’s mementos? How do you choose what to keep versus what to throw away?”

This reader asked a great question, and my guess is you’ve wondered the same thing! My short answer is this: I get rid of just about everything my kids are done with. My reason? If they don’t use it, we don’t need to keep it.

Now here’s my longer answer: I do keep a few of my kids’ most special items. Beautiful crib bedding that my grandmother purchased? It’s in a tote. First Christmas dress? Saved. Outfits they wore home from the hospital? I’ve kept those too!

When my kids were smaller, we had one tote that held both girls’ special items. Now that they’re a little older (and have grown out of more toys and books they’ve loved for years), they each have their own tote.

This pre-chosen limit forces me to make solid decisions. An item may be cute, or fun, or whatever, but it has to be really special in order to make it into the totes.

That way my kids will have a few special things they can share with their own children one day, but they won’t be burdened with boxes and boxes full of stuff to go through.

I’m a firm believer that the less stuff we have, the more special each item becomes. Plus, by passing along outgrown items, others can be blessed with things we’re finished with.

But, sometimes, we can’t really pass the item along – for instance, not very many people are wishing for someone else’s school papers to sort through! Whether your kids are homeschooled, enrolled in public or private school, attend day care, or just scribble in a notebook, there is likely a plethora of paper in your home.

I’m going to offer a few specific solutions for organizing and purging those papers, and you can choose the method that seems best or easiest for you to accomplish.

How to Organize School Papers

1) Have a three-ring binder for each child. You can fill it with sheet protectors and just slip their special papers into the sheet protectors.

2) Utilize the binder method I just mentioned, except hole-punch the papers instead of using sheet protectors.

3) Keep a file in your file-cabinet for each child.

4) Save an unused pizza box for each child every year. You can place art projects, pen-pal letters, etc., into the box. Then simply label the pizza boxes with their names and the year and stack those boxes in the top of a closet.

5) Use a three-ring binder throughout the year for each of your kids, then at the end of the year, let them choose one or two special papers and toss everything else. This way, their work is honored as it’s being completed, but your family is also able to start fresh every year.

6) Or do what I did one year when I was very busy and a little desperate: Instead of sorting our papers as we went along that school year, we had huge piles of school and Bible class papers that had piled up all year.

One child held open a trash bag and I dumped everything in. It was such a relief to have that weight lifted and hours and hours of time saved!

Remember that your system doesn’t have to be beautiful or perfect – if just needs to work well for your family.

While you’re sorting through school papers and other childhood mementos, do keep in mind that you can’t take anything with you when you die. You likely also don’t want to burden your children with having to go through boxes and boxes and boxes of things after you’re gone.

For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either.” 1 Timothy 6:7, NASB

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:19-21, NASB

{Our binder system – each girl has 2 for elementary school, and my oldest has a middle school binder as well.}

If you’re emotionally having a difficult time letting go of your child’s things, read this article for more help.

Personal Thought/Application Question: How do you sort through your child’s school papers and childhood mementos?

Davonne Parks believes that your role at home is valuable and she wants to help you thrive in your environment. Click here to receive immediate access to the FREE printable library she created just for you.


  • Elizabeth

    Hi! I’ve been enjoying this series on organizing our homes – some tips all of us can use! I just wanted to mention that many states have laws that require homeschool parents to keep all or part of their children’s schoolwork in case the school district wants to review it. So if you homeschool, just make sure you know your state laws before throwing any of your children’s schoolwork away.

  • Rachel

    I have started taking pictures of all the work I would like to remember. I then create a photobook for each child for each year. I only save the items that are VERY special or can’t be fully appreciated as an image only. I love how they are turning out.

  • Cassie from True Agape

    This is a great post. I am also having a hard time letting go of things. I tried to think so hard if I should keep it or let go.. But I am slowly learning of keeping just the most important ones only.

  • Kathleen

    The only thing I want to add to your great article is to decide on what way you are going to use and implement it ASAP. I keep hemming and hawing over what wayt o do it and putting off buying what I need (binders or folders etc) so now I have TONS of stuff waiting to be sorted and saved for 3 different kids. If I had just gotten organized when my 1st started school I wouldn’t be wasting space and stressing myself out.

    • Davonne Parks

      Implementing ASAP is a fantastic tip, Kathleen! Absolutely! A job finished imperfectly is better than a perfect job never begun.

      Tip #6 might be the best way for you to give yourself a fresh start, then you can do the binder method from here on out 🙂