The Best System for Organizing and Storing School Papers

Clear your clutter and never lose important documents

If you're like most busy, hardworking parents, your system for organizing your child's school papers probably involves the kitchen table or counter. You can never seem to find what you are looking for when you need it. Important papers may get lost, ignored, or recycled. If you are fed up, take one hour this weekend and get organized. Use this step-by-step solution to organize school papers once and for all.


Tools Needed to Organize School Papers

stack of papers and pen

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Organization starts with having a convenient storage system that is easy to use. You will need something to put all the paperwork in that you need to keep. Here are some suggestions:

  • A portable filing bin that accommodates hanging files
  • A hanging file for each child
  • 2 additional hanging files
  • 10-inch by 13-inch envelopes

Label 3 Hanging Files for Each Child

​Use these labels on your hanging file labels:

Take Action/Sign: This folder will be for forms that need to be signed like permission slips that need to be returned, teacher requests, PTA announcements, and flyers about events that need to be added to your calendar.

Short-Term Storage: This file is for forms or information that you don't need to keep forever but will need to refer to at some point in the near future. For example, information on an upcoming field trip that includes a list of what your child is to bring or an upcoming school carnival flyer.

Long-Term Storage (One Label For Each Child's Name): This folder is for each child's special papers, progress reports, test scores, awards, certificates, or programs from school plays or musical events.


Put the Files in Your Portable Filing Bin

Now that your files are labeled, it's time to put them away. Add the hanging files to the portable filing bin. Keep the bin in a centrally located spot such as the kitchen or home office. The secret to paperwork organization is to have a place to put the paper.


Choose a Location for the Organizer

You will keep this storage system handy, in plain sight, so you may want to choose one that appeals to you. It's best to place it at first in the spot where those school papers usually accumulate.

As you get used to the system, you can move it to another spot that is better suited for sorting and storing the papers each day. 


Sort Your Stacks of Paperwork

Throughout the week, as your child brings you stacks of school papers, simply drop them in the appropriate hanging folder.

Teach your kids​ to organize their paperwork themselves. Have them take out their homework and hand over the paperwork you need to check out.


How to Review Your Paperwork and Take Action

Now that the papers are organized, you will need to set a routine for when you check each file.

Review the take action/sign file daily. Each evening, review the papers in the take action/sign file. Sign all forms and permission slips and put them in your child's backpack. Add any new meetings, concerts or events to your calendar. Once this is done, either file the form in the short-term storage file for future reference or recycle it.

Review the short-term storage file regularly. Review the papers in the short-term storage file on an as-needed basis. On the day of the field trip, you'll know right where to find the flyer with details and instructions. Once the event has come and gone, throw the form in the recycling bin.

Keep things to save in the long-term file. Anything you want to save goes in each child's long-term file.


Organizing Keepsake Papers

At the end of each semester or school year, take the papers from each child's file that are special to you or your child. Put them in a 10-inch by 13-inch envelope with your child's name and school year noted on the front.

Store the envelopes in a drawer or bin. You now have the special papers, awards, and certificates for each child organized by school year without any extra work.


Ongoing Maintenance for Organizing School Papers

This is a simple solution for organizing school papers that maintains itself, provided you practice regular discipline with the steps outlined. You may find it necessary to periodically replace the hanging files due to wear and tear.

Stick with this system so that paperwork clutter doesn't take over your home again.

2 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. White EM, Deboer MD, Scharf RJ. Associations Between Household Chores and Childhood Self-Competency. J Dev Behav Pediatr. 2019;40(3):176-182. doi:10.1097/DBP.0000000000000637

  2. Vilaverde D, Gonçalves J, Morgado P. Hoarding Disorder: A Case Report. Front Psychiatry. 2017;8:112. doi:10.3389/fpsyt.2017.00112

By Sue Kay
Sue Kay is a working mother, time-management and organization writer, and vice president of business development for InHealth Systems and Services.