So one of the first big projects of the summer each year is filing everything away from the school year so that it can be easily accessed and enjoyed for years to come. I have perfected this system over the 4 years I've had kids in school (more if you count preschool), and find it incredibly easy to manage and maintain. This works for me, so hopefully you can find something here that works for you too!
Here are some things to consider.
1.) Decide how to store everything
My storage method of choice is 3 ring binders. The advantage to binders is that they don't take up much space and they are easy to access if you want to look through things. The disadvantage is that you have to whole punch everything which can be time consuming. Honestly, I set aside a whole morning to do both of they boys' binders for the year. But trust me when I say the final product is soooo worth it. I know many people use a bin or box to store things too. The advantage of a file bin is that you can just drop papers in it as you go and don't have to spend time putting it together. The disadvantage is that it's not as easy to access everything if you want to spend a time looking through the papers. When my boys were in Pre-K/Kindergarten, it took 2 binders each year for each child. I did one of artwork, and one of school work. By the time they were in 1st grade, I could fit everything into one 2-3 inch binder.
|Binders by year on the left, year books in the middle, box of baby mementos (birth day newspaper, hospital tags, favorite outfits, baby book, etc.)|
2.) Create a system that's easy to maintain
Every Friday, when the boys bring home their folder of papers for the week, I immediately sort through them. Some papers get recycled (or composted now that we have a system for that!) and others go straight to the "Keep Forever" basket. The boys both have one in their closet, and I just stack up papers all year as they come home. Keep or toss - every Friday. It takes less than 5 minutes a week. By stacking them up, from beginning to end, everything stays in chronological order and is ready to file at the end of the year.
|In Lex's closet, we use a basket, just the right size for paperwork.|
|For Eli's closet, we use a shoe box for the "Keep Forever" box. It's overflowing by the end of the year, but it works!|
Ideas for the Keep Pile:
*Anything with a hand print
*Projects that are a reflection of them. Typically these happen at the beginning of the year and are titled "All About Me," or something like that. Another version is a list of their favorite items or goals they've written for the future (typically around New Years) or the end of the year reflections.
*Cards and letters: This includes Valentine cards, thank you notes from teachers, birthday cards, etc. I use gallon sized Ziplock baggies for this kind of thing.
|The time Lex was sick for an entire week and his class sent home Get Well cards.|
|Birthday Cards, also stored in a baggie.|
*Final drafts of almost any writing assignment. I come from a family of writers (maybe explains the blogging hobby?), and love reading the stories and poems that people devise from their imaginations. It's the same with my boys' writing. Since kindergarten, if they have written a story, a poem, or a letter, I've kept it.
|A Poisonous Snake, a non-fiction story by Eli.|
*Tests that they've aced (although I throw most spelling tests away).
|I love to layer things in the binder, so you can see several things at once. Here is Lex's artwork (on bottom), his certificate, and blue ribbon. The artwork is big, so it folds over the other things.|
*Miscellaneous - one example of this is the name card from their desk. It's the last thing teachers send home every year.
|Eli's desk name tag, followed by his first day of school work.|
|Another "miscellaneous" that definitely went in the "keep forever" pile: the part of Lex's jeans that had to be cut off when he fell at school and had to get stitches. They are stored in the binder too, in a Ziplock baggie.|
Some additional tips:
*Use the front binder pocket for items that immediately bring back memories of that year.
|Lex's name card, class composite picture|
|Followed by his first day of school picture, a "Good Luck" note from his 2nd grade teacher and his third grade teacher's "Get to Know Me" letter.|
*For bigger projects, fold it over.
*Let it be messy (can that just be my motto all the time?). Your papers won't all line up, period. School is messy. Art is messy. Learning is messy. Let your storage system show what school was really like that year.
*You might wonder about the projects that are just too big for the binder (shoe box projects, posters, etc.). We have not had too many of them yet, but when they start coming home, they probably won't make the "keep" cut. Both my boys made toad houses in 2nd grade. They were made of a milk carton, leaves, twigs, and pine cones, definitely not built to stand the test of time. They stayed on the front step until the boys stopped showing interest - and then I threw them out. In first grade, they both made clay hanging owls. Those made the keep cut and are displayed in our den. You just have to decide what fits your home's personality and keep the things that match that.
4.) Don't forget to enjoy them. I store the binders in each of the boys' rooms and they are easy to reach. We pull them out several times a year to look through them. I keep their year books right beside the binders, and have their single box of baby mementos right above the binders. The boys are so proud to have a whole section of their closet that's dedicated to things they have made and accomplished.
I hope you've found something useful here. Happy organizing!