UHeart Organizing: Creating a School Memory Bank

Once every year or two, my husband and I pull out our family memory bins and take trips down memory lane. It is fun to shuffle through items that are from our childhood days, and to share stories about elementary school friendships, the homes we lived in and those adventurous family road trips. We are thankful that our parents held on to a few of our school moments; report cards, photos and writing assignments are always the first things we grab for. Not everything requires a spot on the wall or even needs to be saved for future reminiscing sessions, but it is nice when you can offer your kiddos a condensed version of their life during their school years to look back on.

With that, one of the reasons I heart having a contributing team of writers is because they often times inspire me to rethink my own systems. They bring so much more to the organizing table than I could do all on my own, and for that I am very grateful. We have been using our school paperwork organization method for quite a few years now (and it still ranks as one of my most popular posts), but Karen of A House Full of Sunshine has added a few new twists that I am majorly crushing over. I am so glad that she is here today to share her process for preserving her children’s school memories and milestones so that one day they can share their stories with their own families.

Nothing leads to chaos in the home so much as lack of a system. So when your kids start at school and you haven’t yet worked out what to do with all the masses of stuff they come home with… Let’s just say that things can end up in a giant muddle verrrrry quickly. (Can you tell I’m talking from experience here?)
You kind of get thrown in the deep end when your kids hit school age. I was a teacher for goodness’ sake, and yet I still had NO IDEA about the quantity of paperwork I’d have to deal with as a mom. It truly is mind-boggling. And I’m not just talking about permission notes and information letters, which can be dealt with and tossed. The real problem in this house are the things with sentimental value that we want to keep (or the ones we haven’t decided yet whether we should keep); the artwork, merit certificates, sporting ribbons, school photos, report cards, and writing samples. All the memorabilia of school life.
Over the past couple of years I’ve stuffed things in drawers, thrown things in the filing cabinet, stuck paperwork in folders, and no doubt misplaced a lot of things along the way.
My problem? Lack of a centralized system. I was making it up as I went along, and getting myself into a bigger and bigger mess as time went by.
No more!
I had a think about what my ideal system would look like, and decided that I wanted a box for each child, with a folder for each grade level. I decided on folders because they keep the contents protected and can be taken out and flipped through at a glance.
I started by purchasing a whole stack of display folders, one per grade level per child, plus an extra for before-school-age art and memorabilia.
The first thing I always do when using a display folder is to slip the spine out and flip it over backwards so the display pockets can be refilled from the back. There’s nothing more annoying than running out of room in your folder and having to take every single slippery page out in order to add a few extra pockets at the end. This way, you merely have to remove the back cover to refill it – the pages all stay in place.

Next, I labelled the spines by grade level, using my label maker with transparent tape.

I found opaque hanging files, which I love for their clean and streamlined look.

I used clear plastic file boxes and added the kids’ names using pre-cut vinyl letter stickers.
Each child is allocated a different color, so it’s easy to see at a glance which folder belongs to who.
I started by printing personalized cover sheets for each folder. If you want to make your own custom cover sheets, you can do it easily in Word – it only took me about fifteen minutes to make and print all 27 covers I needed. I inserted a box a little bigger than 5″ x 7″ to fit a standard-sized school photo. The font for the child’s name is Always in my Heart and for the Grade level I used Bebas Neue. Then I just kept changing the grade level and printing as I went, until I had a full set for each child.
I then designed a series of cover pages to divide each folder into categories, with sections allocated for school reports, awards, artworks and writing samples. I kept mine simple and graphic so they won’t quickly date.
I printed the cover pages onto cardstock so that the slightly heavier weight guides navigation through the folder by touch – you feel the thicker cover pages as you flip through. You could also add tabs to the top of your pages if desired, but personally I didn’t want anything sticking out. I’ve found the system is very easy to navigate as-is.
I also designed a simple memory-catcher questionnaire to fill out with your child each year. It has basic stats like age, height and weight, as well as space to record your child’s best friends, their favorite activities at school, things they love to do, and what they want to be when they grow up. There’s room for a smaller photo in the top corner, or you could have your child draw a self-portrait there.
Down at the bottom is space for a hand print so you can keep a record of your child’s growth over the years.
I’ve ordered my folders as follows:

1. Personalized cover sheet with photo

2. Class photo

3. Questionnaire sheet

4. Report cards
5. Awards
6. Art works

7. Writing

Lastly, I purchased a clear acrylic magazine holder (Jen is so amazing she would probably be able to whip one of these up herself) so I can keep the folders for my kids’ current year levels at my fingertips in the cupboard. Now, as they come home from school or day-care with their latest masterpiece, I can easily slip it into the appropriate section of the folder.
At the end of the year I’ll go through the folder and tidy it up, culling some pieces if need be, and then file it into that child’s school memory box.
I can’t tell you how good it feels to have a system! My eldest child is in Grade One this year, so I’m glad I started sooner rather than later. Now my kids’ precious memories have the home they deserve. They already love flipping through their “books” and seeing what they’ve produced and achieved over the course of a year.
Thanks so much for having me here today, Jen!
_____________________
Karen lives in Australia and has listed all of the sources for her project on her blog as well:
Clear file boxes – Howard’s Storage World

Pre-cut vinyl letters – Officeworks

Clear hanging files – K-mart

Display folders – Officeworks.

I am working to locate and add a few similar sources for the U.S. as well (it seems here in the US we call these “presentation books”).
_____________________

Hi friends, I’m Karen from A House Full of Sunshine. Do you see that grin I can’t wipe off my face? That’s how thrilled I am to be here! I live in Australia where I’m blessed to be a stay-home mummy to my three little people. I’m also a part-time interior decorator and a former teacher of Creative Arts. Basically, I’m happiest when I’m squeezing every drop of creativity out of life – whether that means decorating a room, inventing a fun new activity to do with the kids, thinking up pretty organizing solutions or putting together a DIY project. I believe life is meant to be beautiful, and home is an expression of the heart. My blog, A house full of sunshine, is the place where I share my adventures in creative home-making with kids. The coffee’s on and the welcome mat is out – I’d love to see you there!

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