What to do with all those papers that come home from school…

I love this cat picture. Is he cute or what? I pulled this watercolor out of my daughter’s “elementary folder of school stuff” today, so I could scan it and address how to handle all the stuff that comes home from school.

If you have a child in school, especially in elementary school, you are probably overwhelmed with all the papers they bring home.

Their first story, their drawings of your family, the sweet notes they write… it all seems important. Parents often come in two types. There is the kind of parent who saves everything, and the kind who saves nothing. I’m fairly schizophrenic, one day being parent number 1, the next parent number 2. But, because both of these solutions are rooted in being overwhelmed, I’d like to suggest a middle road.

First, let’s layout some of the types of stuff (more officially called memorabilia) that comes home.

  • Tests, Report Cards & Worksheets
  • Creative & Report Writing like this…

The above scan is the first page of a story my daughter wrote in Kindergarten with no spelling correction (duh.) I wish I could say that I found this teaching method (you know, letting them be creative and not correcting spelling) was successful, but to this day, as a 7th grader, spelling is still a very low priority in my child’s writing. But I digress, that is a topic for a different day, and probably a different blog.

  • Artwork like this… love the owl with the night sky also.

  • Notes & Cards like this…

Yes, I do love her with all my hart and heart!

Obviously, these are all items I kept.  They are sweet, emblematic of the age or year, or I just plain liked them. However, there was plenty of art, notes and stories that went in the trash (mostly when she wasn’t looking.)

So, what to keep? I think as always, it comes back to story.

What is your child’s story this year? Are they mastering writing? Have they blossomed as an artist? Does this item help tell the story best?

If so, then by all means keep it. If not, toss it. It’s always better to toss the undesirable stuff sooner than later. I took a class on Organizing Paper Clutter at Simplify 101 and the BEST thing I learned was that much of what we call clutter is simply the result of delayed decision-making. If I can decide now, it can go to an appropriate storage place or go away! Simple.

But, if you are going to keep the memorabilia, then how will you store it?

Memorabilia that is letter sized or smaller is easy. I have an archival expandable folder (sorry I don’t have a recommendation, the one I use is no longer available) for tests, report cards, thank you notes, certificates and writing assignments. For elementary school, I filled an entire folder. I’m thinking that middle and high school will fit into a second one.

If the artwork or project is large like the owl art, you have a couple of choices. There is large flat portfolio type storage and if you have a budding artist on your hands that may be a good option. If anyone has any recommendation for this type of storage, please leave a comment.

If not, then taking photographs of the art may be the way to go. I photographed the owl today.

***TIP*** In order to avoid using flash, I put the art on a black piece of foam board and took it out to my front porch, which meant I had soft, indirect light. I laid the foam board on the porch floor and stood above it, making sure the camera strap and my toes didn’t get into the picture! It isn’t as perfect as a scan might be, but it was a whole lot easier.

If you are looking for more ideas for your kid’s artwork, check out this post. Read the comments section for lots of different ideas. I like this blog post also. The best tip on the second post is to add your child’s name (hadn’t thought of this since I just have one!) and their age to the back of the artwork. (I really wish I’d done that with the larger pieces.)

Do you have a system you love? Please share!

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One Comment to “What to do with all those papers that come home from school…”

  1. I can’t say I have a system I love, but I do sort of have a system. I didn’t throw away in the “now” moment, but at some point I did organize ALL the things I’d kept and began photographing them. I used a easel chalkboard and magnets to hang them for photographing. The ones I really liked I kept the original of, the others I only kept the picture. I still have one more box of older stuff to go through and photograph, but once I started this I switched from keeping everything to being more selective in the moment. I now use the archival expandable folders for small things and a rubbermaid box for the large ones.

    I plan to make coffee-table books out of the scanned photos at some point – like an art book for each child. I’ve not yet decided how to keep the larger items, but am leaning toward an art portfolio. I have one I got in high school and it stores a few of my own pieces that I’ve kept over the years. Most are still in pretty good shape despite multiple moves across several states and nearly always being stored vertically.

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