School Papers: My Simple, Successful Solution

By September 10, 2012Be Productive

A Rescue Rope For Mothers Drowning In School Papers

Let’s get something straight before we start…I am not a naturally organized person. At all. One glance at my side of the bathroom counter will put to rest any notions that I was born with any organizational skills.

However, I do naturally thrive WHEN things are organized, so I’ve learned to develop systems that keep my home running as smoothly as possible.

One of the biggest organizational challenges for moms is school papers. School forms, school notes, school invitations, school homework, school art, school avalanche.

Last year I figured out a system that worked extremely well for me and I’m going to share it with you today. The thing I want you to remember, though, is that it won’t work for you perfectly until you tweak it. Whenever you try a new system, expect to tweak.

Here is what we’ll cover in this post:

  • The Command Center
  • The Beauty of the Inbox
  • Get a Birds Eye View with Bulletin Boards
  • What to do with ALL.THE. ARTWORK.
  • A Great Calendar Solution
  • Paper Purgatory
  • The Quick Decision Solution
  • The Resource List and FREE Printable

The Command Center Solution

I’m an “out of sight – out of mind” kind of person. I need to see what is on the calendar and what papers I need to process, so I created a Command Center in our kitchen. I moved the table over to one side and put an Ikea desk, wall files and bulletin boards up on the other side of the breakfast area.

The Inbox Solution

I use wall files that are labeled for each child (I share one with my son). When my kids get home from school, they put all their papers that I need to see into my box.

While they do their homework, I go through the papers, sign things, ask questions and add events to our calendar. When I’m done, I put the papers that need to go back to school in each child’s box so they can put them in the backpacks for the next day.

Weekly Cleanout
Sometimes papers pile up, so I also try to make sure that each weekend we clean any leftover out.

Solution for Small Spaces
If you don’t have room for wall files, they make magnetic files you can stick on your refrigerator. You could also just keep a file box on the counter or in a cabinet with a folder for each child.

The Board Solution

I love to see everything we have going on in one glance. So, I have one bulletin board where I pin all the great homework, artwork or certificates. I also pin event invitations and announcements so that I can reference it in case I write it down wrong in my calendar. Not that I’d ever do that…ahem.

The other board used to be used as a weekly calendar, but I found a new system that I’ll show you in a bit. I think I’ll use the board for chore lists and reminders. Not sure.

The Check List Solution

I don’t want to be a nagging mother. By our door, I have a little printable hanging up that reminds the kids of everything they need to do when they get home from school.

We don’t always follow it perfectly, but it is SO much easier for me to say, “Did you do your list?” instead of, “Did you wash your hands and hang up your backpack and turn in your papers and…”

The check list prevents me from being a nagging mom…as much.

The Artwork Solution

My favorite recent solution has been how I handle artwork and mementos that I want to keep.

I bought a stacking tray set, labeled a tray for each child and put it in our cabinet. When the kids bring home something we want to keep, I put it in their tray. If it’s too big for the tray, I take a picture of it (but most things we actually wanted to keep fit just fine). If they tray starts to get full, then we need to thin it out.

Each child only can keep as much stuff each year as fits in the tray.

Yearly Manila Files
At the end of the year, I glance through the papers, thin them out and put them in a large manila file. I label it with the child’s name, year and school grade and stick it in the top shelf of their closet.

It has been an incredibly simple way to tame my sentimental desire to keep stuff without overwhelming our home with papers.

The Rotating Calendar Solution

This is my favorite new find. As I mentioned before, I am a visual person. If I can’t see it, it doesn’t exist and probably won’t get done.

Even though I keep my calendar on my computer. I needed a calendar I can see while I’m cooking or talking to my kids after school. A month calendar on the fridge wasn’t really helpful because I wanted to see several months at a time and by the time it was the middle of the month, I could only see two weeks ahead.

At Target, I found these magnetic, wipe off, weekly calendars and picked up 4 of them.

I’m in calendar heaven. I fill out a month at a time and as each week passes, I erase it and rewrite it with all the info from 4 weeks ahead.

I can always see 4 weeks at a time, but I only have to update one week at a time. I simply rotate this week to the bottom. It’s been SO helpful for me.


The Paper Purgatory Solution

Another solution I adore is that I created a Paper Purgatory. It’s for all those papers that my kids might ask for or might need for school. I “think” it’s okay to throw them away, but I’m not quite sure. So I placed a bin in our laundry room and I simply toss those questionable papers in there. If the kids need them or ask for them, I don’t have to be the mean Mommy who threw away their first picture of potato stamped Angry Bird even though it’s torn and stained.

The Paper Purgatory has saved me on several occassions while still keeping our actually paper pile quite manageable.

The Quick Decision Solution

It will change your life if you can learn to make quick decisions about things. I know that’s hard in life and with big choices, so starting with school papers might be a great training ground for us indecisive moms.

Practice making quick and clear decisions about every paper that you pick up. Keep it, throw it away or put it in purgatory, but never just put it back down without making a decision.

The Resource List

If you’re inspired to create your own paper solution, I’ve organized all the resources I use into a handy list so you can get a jump start on tackling those papers. I searched for the best solutions for you so some of these are affiliate links and some are not.

Weekly Magnetic Calendar I couldn’t find the one I bought at Target on their website, but you can get this similar one at Amazon. If you decide to see if your local Target still carries them, it’s the Mead OrganizHer Weekly Calendar.

Wall Files Pocket

Paper Trays

Manila File Folders

Bulletin Board and Marker Board – I actually made my own from some stuff I already had, but you can also purchase ready made ones like these.

Ikea Desk – since I always get questions about my desk, I thought I’d add that link here as well. It’s called the Vika Veine and it’s kind of awesome.

FREE Checklist Printable for you – You’ve taken the time to read this whole post. I think you deserve a prize. How about a copy of my simple after school check list. Enjoy!

Share Your Ideas and Tips!

Different solutions work for different families. Click here to share the school year solutions that have worked for you.

Leave a Comment



  • Wonderful post! I admire your organization and will use some of your great ideas. I’ve been looking for a good magnetic calendar to synchronize everyone’s schedules. Thanks for sharing.

  • Will keep this in mind when the kiddos are in school in a few short years. Thanks!!!

  • Katie B says:

    Thanks for the tips…it always helps to get some fresh perspective and spend a minute thinking about how to be better organized. I love the fact that being better organized about papers helps me appreciate my child’s work more and dread the papers less. I want to be excited about the work they put in, not exasperated that they have brought something else into the house.

  • Suzanne says:

    Great tools. I really like the command center desk. I agree that making quick, clear decisions is a mom life-saver! I do the same thing with the mail. Have a great week!

  • Renee says:

    Thanks so much for this. These tips are awesome. This is the first year both my boys are in school and just this morning I told my husband that we really needed to figure out a way to organize all the school papers. Looks like trips to Ikea and Target are in my near future. πŸ™‚

  • Jennifer says:

    Kat, love this! I have been struggling with my daughter each morning to be ready on time. As a result, important things are being rushed such as getting things signed or making sure she has all she needs for school each day. I’m going to try some of these solutions so that hopefully our mornings will improve.

  • […] Tips for Mom’s with school children Posted on September 10, 2012 by JaniceDGreen As a grandmother who, outside of Skype visits, seldom gets to spend time with her grandchildren, it is hard to blog about raising children. Today I came across an article on the Internet that I believe will help school mom’s to keep up with their children’s school assignments and all those school papers – the one’s to sign and return, the ones to save, and the ones to treasure forever. Check out this blog post by Kat Lee:Β School Papers: My Simple, Successful Solution […]

  • Taryn says:

    Love these ideas especially the wall files! Totally identify with the calendar needs i solved my calendar issues with a year plannwr i made myself: laminated A2 sized, 6 months per side. Now i can keep track of events in future abd in the past! Visuals of it are here:

  • Mitzi says:

    Love, love how you made this task seem so easy.
    I too have the wall calendar and it is my second brain! I need the desk. Currently, my home office is in a wood trunk in the dinning room hidden away from me and the rest of the world. πŸ™‚ I need an upgrade!

  • Lisa says:

    Another way I keep track of papers I need to keep for a specific period of time such as a sports, classroom or school monthly calendar, field trip itinerary, is to keep them together by a magnetic clip that hangs on my fridge. Then as each event passes, it’s papers can be thrown out.

  • Kim says:

    You rock.

  • Melissa says:

    Okay, Kat! Talk about actually being INSPIRED TO ACTION-guess what I did after reading this…and after having struggled with this exact same issue! I found an “At A Glance” 120 day planner (90 day planner on the other side) dry erase calendar from Office Depot that I filled in all the 1/2 days of school and the fall break, Thanksgiving break, Christmas break, etc…so far so good! I even assigned each child their own color marker, as well as church, school, work, mom, and dad, so we can see at a glance by color, too. Also, I found these magnetic files for the fridge in the same colors…I put my husband’s mail in his file instead of on the kitchen counter; feels better already!

  • sandi says:

    i have a solution also… throw it all away!

    actually i have a magnetic board on the inside cabinet of our island… each child has a small pencil box with homework supplies on a shelf in that cabinet. their homework for the week hangs on a clip so it is easy for them to glance at and complete. permission slips and such get put on top of the island and i go through that stuff while they work on homework. art things go in a clear plastic bin under each childs bed. twice a year we go through the bin and keep one item from the beginning of the year, one from the middle and one from the end. that way they can see progress and i don’t have to keep it all. it helps that i am not attached to things so i have no problem throwing it out.

  • Lyndall says:

    Terrific ideas! Thanks for sharing!

  • Shannon L says:

    I take the manila folder you store in their closets one step further. I have cleared Rubbermaid type bins for each kid. As we gather special art, certificate and last years school pictures they all get put in the bin for that child. My hope is this large tote will store from k thru 12 special papers ect.

  • This is all awesome, thank you so much!

  • Michelle Good says:

    The paper purgatory and weekly dry erase calendars was the solution I was looking for!! Thank you thank you! My only problem is I can’t find any dry erase calendars that will work. πŸ™ The ones you linked to on Amazon are a little too small for me. I went to Target, office depot and walmart today and no luck. I’m not giving up though..I know they are out there! πŸ™‚

    • Kat Lee says:

      My big marker board on the wall is actually a…wait for it…poster board! You can by dry erase poster board, cut it to any size and put it in a frame. I wrote on it with permanent marker to divide it into sections.

      Maybe you could do something similar for weekly calendars?

      • Michelle Good says:

        I forgot they do make dry erase poster board. Unfortunately for the calendar I was wanting a magnetic/dry erase board. But I’m definitely going to be using that for something in the future!

        One thing I have done in the past with our calendar and chores was I created a magnet for the most commonly used tasks (gymnastics, soccer, grocery shopping, doc appt, etc). You can buy colored paper and magnets at office supply stores (i used the buisness card size magnets because they were easy to measure and cut). I then assigned each family member a color and I used that color paper and dry erase marker for all appts, actvities, etc. It takes a little work up front, but saves from having to write the same things over and over.

        Thanks Kat! This blog post truly has “inspired me to action”! πŸ™‚

  • Kristiana says:

    Simply beautiful! I feel more organized just READING this! XO

  • Kerri says:

    Great ideas. I also keep SELECT pieces of school work from each kid (thinning out through the year as needed), report cards, certificates/ awards, etc. Instead of the folders or totes I used to use, I have started slipping the papers into those plastic sheet protectors and placing them in 3 ring binders with dividers to label each school year. If items don’t fit, I take pictures to place in the book. It is a great way to be able to flip through the work and see the progress…a running scrapbook of their school-work. πŸ˜‰

  • […] Just. So. Much. So many papers. So many events. So many appointments. So many lost shoes and lost teeth. And lost innocence. So […]

  • Nicki says:

    Wonderful ideas!! Fresh inspiration is always helpful. We use the Flylady calendar as our main calendar at home for the kiddos and I to reference. Then DH and I also use Cozies to have an “nonlinear” calendar that we van both access from our phones, the computer, wherever. In both calendars we each have a designated color that clarifies “who’s” dentist appt, conference, meeting or whatever. New tips are always helpful in tweaking the family system.