I don't like sending home graded work or projects during the week in students' regular homework folders. I like to reserve those for homework like reading logs, and notices from myself or the office.
Instead, I keep the graded work and other projects until Friday. Another must in the classroom is a mailbox slot system. It helps with passing out notes or papers that go home everyday, and it is also where I put together all the work for the Friday folders.
Everyone has a red folder which I label. On Friday mornings before school starts, (or Thursday after dismissal), I put everyones' work in their mailbox slots. After it is all separated, I put my weekly newsletter on top, and then put each student's pile into their Friday folder. I put the folder back in their mailbox slot. When they are packing up for the day, they take them home.
Also inside the folder, I staple a list that I type up which has the dates for every Friday of the school year and a spot next to it for a parent's signature. This helps with accountability. After they empty it over the weekend, they have to sign it as well.
Now, a few things come back with the folder. I develop a routine where parents know that chapter or unit tests have to come back signed and returned but mostly everything else stays home. Some parents get it right away and for some I have to send a note with the work that should have been left at home, so they know next time they should keep that kind of stuff and not send it back.
Another great thing is that of course there are those kids whose parents forget to check the backpacks over the weekend and the folder comes back full. Right away I know that the parent didn't look through the stuff, and I can contact them or keep a checklist for myself to help me know who needs more assistance at getting organized at home. If papers just go erratically throughout the week, it's hard to tell who took out what and who saw what.
This method has helped keep the paper clutter down, regular homework folders pretty neat and clean, and has cut down stress in trying to get things graded everyday ASAP to send home for the day!