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Organizing All That Stuff That Kids Bring Home From School

Clean1

I think I mentioned recently that I have a bunch of different projects happening around here. If you were to visit my house you would encounter piles in each room with a project underway. These are projects that are getting attention here and there when I happen to be in that particular room.

Sometimes things are just shuffled but I have been trying really hard to actually make a dent in each project with the precious minutes when I find them. That dent may be just a tiny one, but it is step forward.

If you were to look on the floor in Anna's room, between the albums and the crib (shown above) you would find this:

Clean2

It's been there for a couple weeks now.

This is the beginning of a project to organize Simon's artwork and papers and evaluations and teacher notes and all that good stuff from preschool through first grade that has made it's way home in his backpack.

The overflowing basket is kindergarten and first grade. The 8.5x11 binder also holds information from kindergarten. The other two piles are from the two different preschools he attended. Last week I went through much larger piles from these years and have already whittled it down to what I want to keep.

How did I decide what to keep?

I am pretty ruthless when it comes to this kind of stuff. Most of the papers from the early preschool years were random coloring sheets with the lovely random marks of a three year old who put very little pressure on his crayons & pens. I kept a few of those and recycled the rest. I did not need to keep them all. I definitely kept notes from the teachers, photos of the class, evaluations, schedules of what they were working on at a certain point in time, etc. I envision going through each pile again to make it even smaller before moving on to working with some of the papers.

What I want to keep are the pages that help round out and complement the stories that live in his albums right now. I love this kind of content/documentation for his albums. When I
look back on things that my Mom kept from when I was growing up I love
to see the papers with my handwriting or notes from teachers.  These are real life gems.

Here's my plan for the stuff I do keep:

(1.) Some of the papers and artwork will go directly into his albums from those years. I am planning to simply slip many of them into 8.5x11 page protectors. This should be fairly simple since I have all the layouts/albums in order already (you can read about that monster project here).

At
one point in time I considered having separate albums just for documenting his
school years. After looking at all those albums on the shelf I decided
I just want to add them to the appropriate years and have them be a
collective reflection of stories and real-life papers (just like what I
am trying to do with Anna's baby album); essentially a more traditional kind of scrapbook.

Simplybeyou_low

Noschool

(2.) Some of the papers and artwork will be used to create layouts. Just the process of going through the piles generated a bunch of different ideas for layouts; there are so many stories still left to be told. The layouts above from Life Artist and Creating Keepsakes 2008 both include papers from school. They are such a great jumping off point.

(3.) If there are leftover papers I may get a couple boxes for more long term storage. I would LOVE to only keep what can be stored in the albums I have already created. My goal is to create a home for all this stuff that is easily accessible, organized, and made relevant within his albums. 

What I do now: 

These days when Simon comes home I take a look in his backpack (if he has not already pulled out the papers to share with me) and am going through the papers on a daily basis. Some get recycled immediately, some are put up on the fridge to be enjoyed and celebrated, and some go into the basket you see above (which lives in Anna's closet).

In the future I would like to get in a routine where I take what comes home and either put it right into a page protector in an album or place it in a to-do pile in my office where I keep content I want to add onto an upcoming layout. 

Look for another post in the coming months as I share my experience, process, and layouts.

Edited : so many great ideas in the comments today. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and systems!

Dottedline_2

Have a wonderful weekend! 

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127 thoughts

  1. Sarah says…
    04/17/2009

    WOW, having kids makes it look like I'll have my work cut out for me! (First baby due in just 6 weeks.)
    I remember mom saving our school papers under the couch in our living room for a while. Those have since been cleaned out; afterall, I am 30+ now.
    Love your scrapbooking and journaling life ideas. You are a great role model. Your kids will certainly appreciate all of the LOVE (and time) you put into this passion of yours!

    Reply 0 Replies
  2. Sasha says…
    04/17/2009

    Thank you for this post Ali. This is exactly the kind of thing I need to see to get going on all the little organizing projects I have all over the house as well. I don't mind the process of shuffling and organizing and recycling and paring down so much, but it does take proper motivation to get me started on it. And, even more to finish it!
    Thanks again!
    Sasha

    Reply 1 Reply
    1. louise Duck says…
      05/12/2011

      Sasha, this could have been me speaking, I am so with you there!

  3. Karen says…
    04/17/2009

    Even your piles are organized!

    Reply 0 Replies
  4. Jan C. says…
    04/17/2009

    Sounds like a great system. I have 5 kids, and I have always felt like I was drowning in school papers! What I do is keep folders in my filing drawer for each child, labeled, "report cards and standardized tests," and "school papers." I file the report cards and important test scores away in one folder where I can pull them out as needed. That folder stays put from preschool through 12th grade, and then moves elsewhere. The other is for school artwork and a few homework pages that I keep, and every year I move that to a file folder in each child's "keepsake box," labeled with the appropriate school grade and teacher's name. The keepsake box has in it all the stuff we are keeping that would never fit in a scrapbook, and the kids like to sit and go through their boxes every now and again.
    It's the best I can do. I didn't even start scrapbooking until the oldest kids were well into high school, so I'll probably never get enough albums made for their school years. This is my solution, and it seems to be working so far.
    Good luck getting all of your projects completed!

    Reply 1 Reply
    1. louise Duck says…
      05/12/2011

      fantastic, wish my mum had enough time to have done that for me. I do realise with 7 kids , she never did, gosh I only have 1 and find time to scrap hard!

  5. {vicki} says…
    04/17/2009

    I simply punch holes (if not already punched paper) and file into a 3 ring binder from Office Depot. I also use dividers (Math, Science, Reading, etc) within the binders. I have one for each year. VERY SIMPLE and works great for me.

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  6. Michelle W. says…
    04/17/2009

    I love that you're sharing this. I, too, don't feel the need to keep *every single paper* that my kids bring home from school. I go through their stuff and the things I know for sure I don't want to keep go right in the trash. Others go on the fridge. Still others go in 12x12 plastic storage boxes that I found on ebay. They're great for storing papers. And some I'm going to put in some frames and do a collage on probably the living room wall.

    Reply 0 Replies
  7. BethBG says…
    04/17/2009

    Great ideas! I've got "portfolio books" set up for kindergarten (I have twins) using big envelopes from an idea in Simple Scrapbooks a year or two ago. So far the first grade stuff is still in piles and I want to go back and put the preschool stuff in a similar system. I never thought of using some of the papers in layouts, I LOVE THAT! Some of the "reject" stuff can be salvaged (am I the only one who recycles schoolwork under cover of darkness?) XX's

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  8. Shelley says…
    04/17/2009

    One thing I did that I still love. I saved the holiday artwork (especially christmas) and put it up every year on one wall or door. My high schoolers still get a kick of seeing what they did and reliving the memories, I however can't believe how fast the time goes! I keep kids holiday art in a big carry art folder that slides behind just about anything.

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  9. Tanya Gilmartin says…
    04/17/2009

    Hey Ali,
    Imagine doubling all that paper when Anna goes to school!
    I have 2 young school age children-my system? SCAN IT AND CHUCK IT!
    After their artwork has been displayed on the fridge, I put my child's name on the back and the date if it is not there already, and store it in a basket I keep on a shelf in my office (behind closed doors). When I have 20 minutes here and there, I scan them into my computer, put them in a seperate file, and get rid of the original (I still keep some things, but really, not much). I reduce the size, and print a bunch at a time on an 8.5 x 11 sheet of cardstock. I simply put them in a 12x12 album with a quick hand written note (if needed) near the picture with their age, and the "story" that goes with it. I also scan their "signature" each year and add that to the "art" book. If a piece of art is too big I take a photo.
    The kids love looking at their art through the years, and I get rid of a TON of papers.
    Now that everything is scanned it makes it easy to make a layout using their school work or art.

    Reply 0 Replies
  10. Kristyn G says…
    04/17/2009

    My little one is only 15 months now, so we haven't started with the endless piles of school goodies, but I know it is coming soon! I wanted to share a project that Noell did over at Paperclipping. It's her School Work Scrapbook Project (http://www.paperclipping.com/purchase-the-schoolwork-scrapbook-tutorial-now/) It is a stand alone mini-book type project, so it may not fit with your keeping everything in one place, but thought you might want to check it out if you hadn't already.

    Reply 0 Replies
  11. Melissa says…
    04/17/2009

    I am currently doing in-home childcare and have 5 kids that do projects on a nearly daily basis. Once the projects are completed, I scan them into the computer. Once the year is over, I plan to burn these projects onto a cd and they will have a copy to keep. This way they don't have to keep every project but they will have a reminder of each one. Maybe you could try that on some of Simon's papers.

    Reply 0 Replies
  12. Rachel says…
    04/17/2009

    Ali -
    I got an idea once from... somewhere, lol... to use page protectors to keep their treasures. You can buy pre-bound page protector books (Avery makes them) from Office Max etc., which hold 10, 20, 50 pages inside each. I ran right out and bought up a dozen of the large ones with the intent to store a school year's worth of artwork and papers in each book. Unfortunately, I had the baby I'd been nesting over and the project was put aside. It's been a couple of years now and this post has inspired me to get back at it!

    Reply 0 Replies
  13. Calli Taylor says…
    04/17/2009

    The way I decide what school projects to keep is when it something like a self portrait, written about something they love, or what they want to be when they grow up. Long story short, if it is personalized in some sweet way, I keep it. I will also keep it if it's a particularly good piece of art for them. My kids have under-the-bed boxes where they put all the projects they bring home. When summer starts we go through the boxes and decide what to keep... I find they are more willing to part with things once a little time has passed.

    Reply 0 Replies
  14. Noreen says…
    04/17/2009

    After taking Library of Memories with Stacy Julian I now have two Rubbermaid file boxes (one for each of my sons) with a big hanging file folder for each grade (preschool - 12)inside. Once the kids bring stuff home, we'll decide if it will be kept or not and then it has a home to go to - no thinking required! I really recommend Stacy's entire system for keeping photos and memorabilia organized and ready to scrap with. You can read about it in her book Photo Freedom or take a class at www.bigpicturescrapbooking.com
    Noreen

    Reply 0 Replies
  15. Elizabeth says…
    04/17/2009

    I think Tanya's idea is a good one--scan and chuck. That way, you can keep some of the items that you might have thrown away. Only keep those items that you or Simon might want to physically hold and look at, or for doing layouts.

    Reply 0 Replies
  16. tracey m. says…
    04/17/2009

    Hi Ali,
    I am SO THERE right now with my 8 and 6 year-olds school work. I've put up two clear wall pockets in the kitchen in which to deposit their daily backpack deliveries. Then, at the end of the week, I transfer each pile to their own hanging files in my big file cabinet. (I made mine with big, boxy bottoms by cutting and taping two hanging files together. I can store about a year's worth of stuff in each!)
    Of course, the ultimate goal is to pare down and archive the "keepers" in a special way. I LOVE (and am so inspired by!!) your plan. I am now a convert to the American Crafts binders that you use. So flexible, so REAL-LIFE!!!
    Have a great day,
    Tracey M.

    Reply 0 Replies
  17. Linda says…
    04/17/2009

    Over the years I have kept one extra large manilla envelope for each of the kids to place art, worksheets, term papers in. One thing I'm really happy I have kept now that the oldest three are in college and grad-school....a sampling of worksheets. When they graduated from high school I scrapped book twelve years of work by reducing the size of the homework on a copier for their high school graduation scrapbook. This spring it was great fun to see a first grade math paper scrapbooked next to a third year physics based calculus paper by the same daughter. I swear I only blinked once and those years were gone.

    Reply 0 Replies
  18. Cary says…
    04/17/2009

    My kids are 28 and 25 and we had an underbed cardboard storage box where selected art work goes for the school year. The last day of school we go for ice cream and prepare to look in the box for the memories of the school year. We purge and I had them select the ten best pieces they want to keep. Before there was scanning I took a few pictures and added this to their pages for each grade. I love your idea to use some as elements on a LO. At their Graduation parties I pulled out one project from each grade and had them displayed with award certificates and grad. gown in the living room. My favorite thing is how their "signature" changed over the years! I have also heard about having a larger frame where selected pieces are hung in the house for a month or so then the child selects the next piece to be changed out. What great memoires you will have!

    Reply 0 Replies
  19. Leslie says…
    04/17/2009

    This reminds how much I really need to go through the things I have and try to incorporate them into the children's albums. I've weeded through them fairly well as they are 13 and 10 but the sit separate from their albums. What do you plan to do with oversized art? Thanks!!

    Reply 0 Replies
  20. Michelle says…
    04/17/2009

    Great post---something I also think about every end-of-school-year. I feel semi-"in control" of photos, but school stuff is more piles/boxes/files right now as well. I love seeing what others are saying about tackling these things. I have only Kinder done for my son, and I use 12x12 albums with a mix of 12x12 page protectors and 8 1/2 x 11----in the 8 1/2 x 11 I just keep papers I love or have chosen to keep that don't really inspire a layout. The 12x12s are layouts, which sometimes focus on a drawing or assignment and sometimes focus on photos. I like my general process, but it just takes some much time to conquer, and I haven't done much at all with my daugther's stuff. But, HELLO INSPIRATION! ;-)

    Reply 0 Replies
  21. SchoolMommy says…
    04/17/2009

    Ali~ Thanks for giving us not only helpful tips, but a glimpse into your real life! You seem to be so relaxed and always have it all together. Nice to see that you have some "piles"of ongoing projects like the rest of us!!!

    Reply 0 Replies
  22. Michelle B says…
    04/17/2009

    What a wonderful post Ali! My four year old son is just finishing up his first year of pre-school and I have been collecting so much stuff! Right now I just have it all in a file folder box - but I know I need to get it in an album. I was thinking about making an album just for him that was school stuff - acomplishments, etc. You gave me some great ideas!
    And just a side note question for you - maybe you will do a Q&A again soon! I haven't scrapbooked for a couple of months now. I seem to have lost my creative mojo! Does this ever happen to you? What do you do to get it back? I still am taking pictures and documenting via my blog but not finding enough will to scrapbook anything.

    Reply 0 Replies
  23. Linn Woodard says…
    04/17/2009

    Thanks for your details...I'm just starting to figure out what I want to do with my first son's school stuff (he's in his second year of preschool now) and I like your ideas of how to tackle it all. I'm wondering, what will/do you do with the 12x18 artwork he brings home? I'm thinking a large storage tub to hold that along with a school years scrapbook to document his school days.

    Reply 0 Replies
  24. Linn Woodard says…
    04/17/2009

    I love this idea, Shelley! I think I'd like to keep that stuff right in my Christmas box along with my other Christmas decor. Thank you!

    Reply 0 Replies
  25. Kristin Rutten says…
    04/17/2009

    Kudos to you for getting this process underway this early in Simon's (and Anna's) life ... after collecting all of that school "stuff" for the past 13 years for my two boys, I finally managed to at least get it sorted by child & school year into huge manila envelopes a couple years ago. After that huge sorting task, I bought a storage unit with a drawer for each kid, which is where I stash their memorabilia during the year and then empty it into a folder at the end of the summer. For most years, each of the boys has 2-3 very packed 10x17-inch envelopes. That is in addition to piles and piles of photos waiting for their stories to be told. I also have purchased an album for each of the boys ... so far empty. Other than a partially finished baby book for my first - and even less actually completed for my second - that's about all I've done. So I have 13 YEARS worth of stuff to get together, which has been on my mind a lot lately because my oldest will complete 8th grade next month ... and {gasp} move on to HIGH SCHOOL! I have vowed to be more on top of things with my two girls (now almost 3 and 9 1/2 mos) and so far, am doing much better with them. I cringe whenever I think of all those wonderful memories that are lost to me now because I just didn't get them recorded. I just love when you share these projects ... it's like a call to action to actually DO something about all of this! (And I must admit, it's comforting to see that you have piles, too! :). Thanks for sharing...

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