It’s that time of year again when the kidlets empty out their desks at school, bring home all of the year’s schoolwork and artwork and leave it in a huge pile on the kitchen table. Kind of makes you want to light a match to the masterpieces and walk away, doesn’t it?
If you are not into torching your children’s schoolwork (hey, I’m not here to judge…), here’s the how-to for dealing with all of those school papers as well as some options for storing them:
Sorting through the schoolwork
1. When your children get home, ask them to sort through their papers to pick out their favorites. If your children seem to want to keep everything, set a limit of perhaps 10 papers only. Keep those.
2. Now it’s your turn to sort through what’s left. If you have a hard time deciding what to keep and what to toss, ask yourself: Is this schoolwork some of the best work little Jimmy has ever done? Is it really representative of who he was at that age? Is this a piece that will still be meaningful 20 years from now? Try to whittle the stack down to no more than 15 pieces. Trust me when I say that your grown children are not going to want to look at more than 15 pieces of their old schoolwork from each grade in 20 years.
Realize that if you start saving 15 pieces per year starting when your child is 3 and ending when he or she is 12, you will have 135 pieces of artwork/schoolwork in storage. That doesn’t include all the papers your kids will write in high school that you may want to save. So you may want to decrease the number of pieces you keep each year as your children grow older.
4. Recycle the rest of the papers. Check to see if artwork covered in glitter or paint can be recycled in your area. I know in Portland they cannot be recycled.
5. There are 3 options for the papers you are saving, some more practical than others. You can store them, display them or give them away.
1. To store them, I recommend buying a portfolio at an art supply store. This portfolio from Dick Blick in Portland costs about $8 and stores pieces up to 23″ x 31.” Get one portfolio per child and clip your child’s schoolwork together by grade. Store the portfolio under the bed, behind a dresser or inside a closet.
2. You could also buy a wide, flat plastic tub that will slide under a bed and store the artwork there. Again, clip the artwork together by grade and use one tub per child.
3. The third option for storing artwork is to file it in your filing cabinet. Make one file folder per child per grade. The downside of this suggestion is that it won’t work to store oversize pieces of artwork. If you are saving lots of things on poster board, use the portfolio method instead.
1. There are many, many ways to display your kids’ schoolwork! Check out this blog post I wrote here for 10 suggestions. You can also try Googling “display artwork” and click on the images search. The options will boggle your mind.
2. One of the easiest ways to display it is to string fishing line in horizontal lines across a blank wall. Artwork is easily attached with clips or clothespins. Ikea sells the version pictured below.
3. You could also make a digital scrapbook of your children’s creations. Take a picture or scan the artwork that you want to save. Write captions for each piece explaining what the artwork is about. Include photos of your kids throughout the year alongside their artwork if you want. Then recycle the originals.
Give It Away
1. Use oversize finger paintings to wrap small presents in.
2. Let the kids cut up their artwork and glue the pieces collage-style on to a blank card to create a custom greeting card.
3. Simply mail a few choice pieces to Grandma. Grandparents love to know what their grandkids do in school.
It’s fun to look back at your child’s schoolwork and marvel at how he or she has grown and changed over the years. But it’s not fun to look back at 500 pieces of paper after your kids have moved out, so whatever you do, stay on top of that artwork/schoolwork collection and keep only the best pieces each year.
Images courtesy of my son (top), Dick Blick (middle), Ikea (middle) and Martha Stewart (bottom).