Simple School Paper Organizer

Simple School Paper Organizer

With this school year fast approaching I’ve started seeing discussions online on how full time distance learning might look from our homes. To, hopefully, help I wanted to show we ended up organizing our school paper and booklets while sheltering in place which may make school a bit easier for you. This year I’m planning on starting school at almost the same point we left it on last year with the addition of a couple simple changes up my sleeve that I’m hoping we can make as school progresses to help keep it fresh and interesting for the girls.

Pinterest image showing four images, the title of the blog post, and my main URL. The top image shows piles of papers and other things on the counter. The below two images shows two different views of the cereal box paper organizer on the counter. Between the two sections, beside the blog title, there's a small picture of the cereal box along with an arrow going from the top to the bottom saying "from this to that with this".

Earlier this year, back when the shelter in place order first went into effect, we were able to print off a bunch of papers for Ada to work on over the first three weeks of her distanced learning. Since I had access to the other packets, including the transitional-kindergarten work, I also printed out a packet for Zoey so she’d have the option of something similar to do when Ada was busy with schoolwork. This, combined with other free printables I found, was a lot of paper I had to keep track of all of a sudden so I grabbed a small cereal box I had just emptied and stuffed the, organized, stack of papers in the top. This kept them all together and each morning, before we started school, I’d pull them out and separate each stacked section, based on if the work was completed and whose it was, and we’d get to work. Once done I’d re-stack the papers and put them back in the top of the cereal box. As the weeks went on the constant pulling out of the papers and the addition of other free entertaining printables, as I came across them, meant the cereal box looked rather ratty and I wasn’t sure how much longer it would last. Eventually the box became so top heavy, or bottom bent, that it started tipping over and I had to, gradually, learn to lean it further back each day against the wall so it wouldn’t topple and spill the papers. The straw that finally broke the camels back came with Easter break and the advent of mandatory distance learning as we were given the opportunity to pick up Ada’s bundle of stuff, including all of her future workbooks and sheets, and I realized my current system wasn’t going to be able to handle the load anymore.

The small counter beside the stove topped with diaper wipes, scissors, and so many papers.
To the right of our oven we have a small section of counter space that became the spot for the cardboard box and the dumping spot of any of Ada’s and Zoey’s school-related papers and objects. I didn’t get a chance to snap a picture until after I cleaned it up a bit so I could dump the papers from the old cereal box resulting in this view. This didn’t include any of the newly received papers and books that were sitting on the table for this photo.

Luckily, I had a giant cereal box on hand so I quickly emptied the last bag of cereal from it and freed the box to make a paper organizer as soon as possible. As this box had held two bags of cereal it was made much wider and sturdier than my older single bag cereal box I had used before.

View of the large, double, cereal box emptied and open at the top.
Started with an empty cereal box.

I started out by taping the box closed, keeping it sturdy, before grabbing my X-Acto knife to cut into it. I then cut part of the top and most of the front side open making sure to leave a slight edge on either side.

View, angled, of the top of the box (Frosted Mini Wheats) with beige masking tape holding down the top flaps in the center and on the one corner edge.
I knew I’d want to cut about a third of the top of the box open so I made sure to secure the center and only one side with the masking before I started cutting. There was no point taping down the portion I was going to cut into.
Angled edge view of the box showing a small rectangle missing from the taped down top of the box.
I started cutting the top of the box off by focusing on the one flap before going over to the other flap. Since I already applied the masking tape to the center of the box I had a line I could easily follow with my knife.
View of the box missing most of it's front and some of it's top so you can see the brown inside of it. In the foreground, at the bottom of the image, you can see the opened X-Acto box, the knife, the blades, and the removed part of the box all going off photo.
After cutting a portion of the top off I continued the two cuts along the front going most of the way down to the bottom and then cut across. I made sure to leave a lip around all the edges so the box would still be structurally sound.

Once I was happy with how the opening looked I taped along the top edge so it would be smoothed down. I then added tape to the inside and outside of the bottom of the box so no smaller items would fall out if I had to move it around.

View of the top of the box showing the last piece of tape stretching across the width of the box overlapping with the cut edge. The right side has a rip in the tape leading to that corner.
I started by laying a strip of masking tape over the edge so half of it wasn’t attached to anything. I then cut into the corners, seen on the right side, and folded the tape over into the inside of the box.
View of the top of the box showing the tape edge. The image is focused on the left inner corner and shows a piece of tape laid over that section with the end hanging over the abyss. The cut has been cut from the tape edge to the corner and one half is missing, folded over, while the other one lays flat waiting to be bent over.
I wasn’t sure if the tape in the corner would pop up so I added another piece angled to intersect perpendicularly with the corner, cut into the tape meeting the corner, and folded the two unattached pieces over.
View from above showing the box. You can see the taped top of the box and the inside. The very bottom shows a strip of tape going from one inner flap to the other inner flap.
Once the top was taped I laid another piece of tape over the hole in the bottom of the box. I worried the tape would stick to something below the box, in the future, so I then flipped the box over and taped it from the bottom too.

And then you’re done; although at this point you could tape the rest of the edges too. I left it as is at this point and haven’t had an issue yet. Once I was finished with my cereal box paper organizer I placed it on our counter, angled away from the stove, where I could easily access the papers.

The small, bent, rounded, and ripped cereal box barely stands on it's own on the counter. Behind it, barely seen, is the newer, larger, and strong paper organizer box.
Here you can see a comparison between my first, quick, solution and my newer long term solution.
View from the side of the orange boxed paper organizer with the papers already inside it. Above it is a small rectangular plastic basket and in front is the tipped over older cereal box.
I was able to fit all of the schoolwork (old and new) along with my miscellaneous other papers I planned to entertain the kids with inside of the box. I separated my paper by having each stack rotated 90 degrees from the previous and next stack. For instance I put Ada’s upcoming schoolwork stacked vertical, then behind it Ada’s used school papers stacked horizontal, then behind that any miscellaneous papers I printed to entertain Ada with stacked vertically… continued onward with each stack turned 90 degrees from the previous stack. On top I put a small plastic basket to contain any related small items I needed to corral like my tape, pens, and a dry erase marker.

A couple weeks later I remembered the plastic drawers I had put together awhile back, as a kid distraction area in my kitchen, that had been moved under the kids art table at some point after we move. I decided to pull them out, reorganized it a bit, and placed it beside the paper organizer so it would be easily accessible when Zoey needed it while Ada was in school. If needed it was simple enough to move the whole thing to the table for Zoey or pull out a single drawer at a time for her. After adding a cup of pens and scissors to the top along with the smaller basket of school-related items I had before the area was completed.

Closeup of the lower half of the paper organizer. You can see a hint of the metal paper separator in the center, with a bit of LEGO shining through, and papers on either side of it. To the left of the photo you can see some of the plastic drawers.
Later on Matt decided he didn’t need a metal book divider he had so I ended up adding it to the box to help better separate Ada and Zoey’s papers from each other. We had a LEGO® storybook adventure set that I had set aside specifically for Zoey while Ada had school meetings so I tucked it in between the papers so it would be easy to access and out of the way.
View of the counter with the stove behind it. Against the wall sits the paper organizer with two rolls of masking tape on it. Beside it sits the plastic drawers with a old David's Tea tin with dry erase markers and scissors alongside the white basket with a clock and other school items. In the drawers you can see the water wows and puzzles.
The final setup.

I chose to leave the paper organizer as it was since I wasn’t sure how long we’d be using it. It ended up working beautifully for the rest of the school year and now, still, sits on our counter full with the same papers as the last day of school. I’m planning on going through the papers and reorganizing my kitchen counter before school starts back up so the paper organizer is ready for the school year and placed in a less obstructive spot. I’m probably going to leave the box as is but if not I could definitely see making it prettier by covering it up with paint or taping decorative paper to the outside. I could see even having Ada and Zoey decorate it with paint, stickers, or markers. It could potentially be a great art project that keeps the kids busy, giving you some time to yourself, and contributes to getting that paper clutter organized.

This year I’m going to start the school year at almost the same point I left it at last year, but I’m also coming up with a list of simple changes I could make as school progresses to help keep it fresh and interesting. Last year we organized our art trolley, shown in our quick and simple storage container post, so any crayons, markers, etc Ada needs during the day are easily accessible. We also bought her a wobble cushion and already had an Ikea FLITSAT art table. For this year I just ordered two stools for the table and am thinking we could create different areas, through these items, for Ada to choose to work from, other than main one: the kitchen table, allowing her to have more agency over her schoolwork. Like last year we’ll see how it goes and take the weekends to decide if and how we should change our space or approach for the next week.

I hope this simple way you can throw together a paper organizer with things you probably already have can help you out with school. I’d love to hear what you’ve done to make distance learning easier so feel free to share any in the comments below. If you’re interested in any future updates feel free to follow my Facebook page or Instagram account where I share my new posts; although, if you prefer to stay updated through email, there’s also my email list. I hope, if you need to, you’re able to make a decision, for you, about school. Hope you’re having a good week.

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