The end of the school year brings a sense of accomplishment, optimism and happiness. But this time of year is also when teachers clear out classrooms, children bring home the products of all their hard work, and families fight even more mountains of paper. Rather than getting frazzled and throwing everything away, or getting nostalgic and keeping everything, just get organized.
Starting is the most difficult part. Do not let the goal of perfection stand in the way of progress. No matter how overwhelming it may seem, start by sorting through paper for 15 minutes. You will probably be motivated to keep going.
Preschool and elementary-age children produce truckloads of artwork, and parents agonize over what to do with it. After all, creativity is something to be nurtured, but too much of it, and you no longer have a place to eat.
When it comes to their kids’ creations, people fall into two categories: those who don’t grow emotionally attached to every stick-figure drawing and those who want to keep everything their budding Picasso has created. To the second group, I say you are stuck in a losing battle. You will never be able to keep every piece of artwork, so stop now.
Instead, keep a representative sample of your child’s art. Keep a few pieces that you think are particularly well done or that demonstrate what your child was most interested in during the past year. If it feels difficult to part with a particular piece, keep it. Once you have sorted all the artwork, it’s time to decide how you would like to store these keepsakes.
The least fussy option is the Stor-n-Slide Underbed Box from the Container Store. This box allows you to keep large and small papers, as well as 3-D creations. Despite its name, this bin does not need to be stored under a bed. It can easily stack in a storage closet or attic, and the plastic container will keep the contents safe from water and dust. It will also be easy to sort through when you or your child is feeling nostalgic. Be sure to label it clearly with your child’s name and grade.
If you are tech-savvy, one popular trend is to take pictures of all of your child’s best artwork and create a computer-generated calendar or book. I love this idea, but you have to be honest with yourself. Will you actually get around to creating the book of third-grade art before your child reaches high school? Also think about whether the end product will be as satisfying. Nothing beats holding an actual piece of artwork in your hand.
Another option is to create a binder of your child’s favorite drawings. Buy a large three-ring binder and some three-hole plastic sleeves to hold your favorite drawings and paintings. This solution allows you to save a large volume of artwork without spending too much time or money. The binder can be stored almost anywhere, making it easy to access and enjoy, plus it leaves you flexibility to frame or give away some pieces later.
As children get older, you’ll want to keep a few writing samples and report cards from each grade. Some of these papers will come home as a hard copy, but others have been e-mailed or saved on flash drives, which are easily misplaced.
Take time to find or print up to five writing samples and a copy of the report card and store them in a vertical hanging file box labeled with your child’s name and grade. A simple plastic file box with a top is perfect and will provide enough space for several years of memories. Don’t forget to include a school photo with these keepsakes. It’s so fun to look at the child’s picture alongside the work from the same year.
For efficiency, create identical files for the 2012-2013 school year and put them with your current files so you are prepared for future years. Then you’re ready to store the box until next year.
An alternative to a file box is a covered desktop file, particularly if you think you or your child might like to refer to last year’s work and keepsakes from time to time. The Container Store’s Classic Stockholm Desktop File is perfect for this purpose.
Organizing your child’s mountain of schoolwork is no easy task. It can be tedious and fraught with emotion. But it’s one of those jobs that’s easier to do now than later. Years from now, you’ll be happy you took the time to do it.
Anzia is a freelance writer and owner of Neatnik (www.neatnik.org).
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