The school year has started and so has the influx of kid’s schoolwork! Do you already have a growing pile?
In this week of our Organizing Your Paper Party series we are organizing keepsakes. While many of the papers heading home with your kiddos can be referenced and then recycled (field trip reminders, lunch schedules, etc), there are plenty of ”keepers” that deserve a more permanent home.
Do you have a pile of schoolwork from last year, stuffed in a box, and waiting to be sorted through? Is that box starting to overflow as you pile on more? Grab it all! We’re organizing keepsakes and prepping for the paper overload this school year.
Maybe it was all the school talk and bouquets of freshly sharpened pencils (bonus points if you get that reference), but for some reason I felt inspired to make a little flowchart for the steady stream of school related paperwork that comes into our homes.
Follow me as we dive into the details of the paper flow!
Focus on the Learning
Most parents know how important praise is to a child. But what is not always clear is how acknowledging the learning and growth can also clear up much of the schoolwork clutter.
The paper is not important, the learning that occurred is.
If you are feeling guilty about recyling your children’s paper, focus on their learning. “I can see you are working really hard to color in the lines,” or “You must be so proud that you’re catching on to double digit subtraction.” Throwing away the paper doesn’t undo the learning.
I know this might sound silly, but it is also an important lesson to teach your children. When you intentionally focus on their learning and effort, you are teaching your children a valuable lesson to turn their focus inward instead making the stuff most important.
Trash Most of It
Notice the many stops at the trash (or recycling bin) on our little chart. In my house and on the flow chart, handwriting practice, worksheets, coloring pages and crafts following a given template, all go into the trash. After we briefly display the work or talk about the project, I praise the girls for their learning, and then we put it in the recycling bin together. They’ll chime in if they want to keep it.
Any paper that shows your child’s personality are the real keepers. Writing samples (short stories or poems), projects, pictures…anything they created that demonstrates who they are at that age is the more precious item. Put yourself in their shoes 10-15 years from now. What would they really want to look at? That xeroxed math worksheet? Probably not.
Create a Temporary Display
We are all familiar with hanging work on the fridge. I loved seeing that spelling test I studied extra hard for displayed for all to see. A temporary display is a perfect place, especially for those pieces you don’t consider “keepers” for the long haul into adulthood.
Whether it is on the fridge or a DIY corkboards, temporary can mean a week or a year. Some projects stay on the corkboard for months and months, but most papers don’t make the cut.
Rotate! During our after school snack, as new stuff comes in, I ask, “Which papers are you done with?” The girls help make decisions about what really matters. I encourage them to select the keepers. After we clean out their folders, we hang up their favorite to keep items together. This forces decisions about paper, but also reminds them that it’s okay to keep things they really love and enjoy.
A simple wire with clips like this one featured on Apartment Therapy, makes it easy to display the latest work of art or A+ test.
Use the “one in, one out” rule with your kiddos to help keep the display uncluttered. These painted frames from Childhood 101 keeps paper neatly arranged and simple to rotate.
Your display can be a mix of permanent installments and temporary works like this one from The Marion House Book.
If you find yourself with a huge pile of paper you can’t keep up because you don’t have time every afternoon, a holding box might be a better option.
Sometimes I will also do a “photo shoot” with the girls projects. After Halloween last year, the girls had accumulated dozens and dozens of decorations and spoooooooky art projects. I loved displaying them for the season! When it was time for them to come down, I let the girls pose with them so we could keep the memory but not all 30 projects!
If your child wants to trash something you consider a treasure, keep it! Sometimes you see the value in a sweet note that they may not yet recognize (More on that in a minute).
Temporary Holding Box
A holding box can be any place where you stash all those keepsakes. It can be a file, a drawer or bin. This is a good option for older children who don’t have as many crafty projects that take up a lot of room.
source Real Simple.
That box will still need to processed as some point. Monthly or even yearly, make decisions about what will be kept and where. Paring down at the end of the year could be a fun activity together.
I can’t imagine having a plastic box for each school year like the Real Simple article implies. What if you have 4 kids? Where would you keep all those boxes. Plus I don’t think any kid wants to be handed 12 boxes of old mementoes to cart around when they leave the nest.
For all those large pieces make a portfolio. Like this one from Martha Stewart.
After the temporary display, I trash most of it. (I’m ruthless, I know). I only keep papers that show their development.
Sometimes having everything in a holding box for the year seeing can help you pick out the most special pieces for keepsakes.
Now, what do you do with the best of the best?
Take pictures or a video
I pick out a few of my favorite pieces and snap a picture of them holding their work of art. I love capturing a snippet of their age along with their art. Here’s a few pics of the Halloween photo shoot we did!
My daughter also wanted to get a picture of them all laid out. I did keep that hand print tree though. I have a thing for handprints.
I have also made a few videos of them sharing their work. It is precious to hear them describe what they did!
Make a Portfolio Book
To take the pictures one step further, turn your photos into a book. Like this one from Joboeji Designs.
Create a mural
You can use a photo software program like Jen did from A Thousand Words. She created murals of her son’s artwork for his room.
Create a file box
My mother made me a file box with a file to hold each grade’s work. I still have it.
I love the file box system because it corrals everything together and forces you to get your ”keepers” down to just one box. Capturing a whole school career in one box works for me! This year’s file can also be used as a holding place until you have time to sort through papers.
Hand off the Responsibility
The last step? Pass on the responsibility to the kiddos to process their papers (after you have helped them with the how-to’s of course). If you have been walking them through this process all along it will be easier then you think to let them take the reins.
Growing up, my file box was kept in my closet and I remember adding to it in junior high and high school. And when I want to reminisce, I’m wading through only one box instead of a mountain of memories.
As the schoolwork comes into your home, the most important thing is to have a place for each step. Whether you skip a step or throw things away freely, a plan will help keep clutter away.
How do you keep track of your keepsakes? Link up below! Grab a button to show off all your hard work too!
Next week we’ll be getting all those manuals organized! You know, the ones you hang on to just in case something breaks. Follow Thrifty Military Mommy or Space For Living via Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or G+ to get all the updates!