Most schools send home plenty of paper: spelling tests, math homework, artwork, notes, and reminders. That paper pile can quickly become an avalanche if you don’t have a plan for dealing with it.
You can’t keep everything your child makes. There’s simply too much of it.
Not only do you not want to store it yourself, chances are good that grown-up Junior won’t care about every scribble he made when he was 5.
Decide in advance what the criteria will be for choosing the keepers. Think of yourself as a curator – you want to choose the best, the favorites, the pieces that really show your child’s development at each stage.
Sort as the school papers come in
It is much easier to deal with artwork and school papers as they come in than to sort through later. Start by preparing a landing spot for all those papers. If you have a family command center, this is a good spot to sort. A simple set of files in a file box or organizing tray can catch papers as they come in. Create a folder for each child’s work where you can slip pages each day. At the end of the week, sort through and decide what to keep and what to toss.
Each week, and again at the end of the school year, go through your child’s artwork and homework and choose the special ones, such as that A- math test he studied so hard for, her first spelling test, or that drawing he created for the school art contest.
For schoolwork, you can set up a binder or use a file box for long-term storage. Use one box or binder for each child, and be sure to label each piece with the child’s name and the date it was created. Keep only what you need to document your child’s handwriting, personality, and development for each grade level.
Curating the artwork is a bit different. For larger pieces or 3D art, take a photo of your child holding the piece – this gives you not only the picture of the artwork but a record of how old your child was when she made it. You can then save the photo and recycle the art. For smaller pieces, choose a few to go into the child’s binder or file box, then go digital with the rest.
For smaller pieces, you have several options. There are apps (like Artkive) that allow you to photograph papers, cards, artwork, etc. with your smartphone or tablet and label it with your child’s name and age. The photos are stored in the cloud and backed up regularly, so you don’t have to worry about losing them.
If you don’t wish to use an online service, you can scan or photograph the art as it comes in and use your favorite photo service to order photo books, make screensavers for family use, or create other photo gifts, such as coffee mugs or tote bags. You can also create a collage or mosaic of your favorite pieces to display as a single work of art. Display the art in a digital frame, and then recycle the actual art. You can still enjoy it without the physical clutter.
Let you child help decide what artwork to keep
Get your child involved in the curating and let him help you choose which pieces to keep. Showing him how to save only the best, and preserve other favorite pieces digitally while recycling the actual art, can be a great lesson in how to let go of stuff and overcome any hoarding mentality. Decluttering isn’t an ability that comes naturally to some children, and curating their own school papers and artwork can help them learn this valuable life skill.