Remember when you were growing up and your parents would sit you down to show you their schoolwork from when they were kids and you’d laugh and cry together and have the best time ever? Yeah, maybe not.
Oh, and I think saving a big bin each year for each child of all their school and artwork is a great idea. Let’s see … 4 kids times 18 years at home is only 72 bins. I think those would look really, super-great against the wall in my dining room for the rest of my life. Well, really they’d probably take up the entire dining room eventually. Maybe not.
“But don’t worry,” you say, “I have the cutest way of storing it all, so it really is no bother to keep it.” Sometimes thinking of a ton of clever ways of storing stuff is so much easier than facing the difficult decisions of what to save and what to keep.
You want to hold onto the memories, the precious, precious memories that are amazing. The thing is, there are so many memories we are making today and will make in the future. We don’t want to fill our lives so full of the past that there isn’t any room for our future.
Make room in your life for abundance. Make room in your life to live in the present.
And then there are the attics, basements, garages, and even storage units. You have a place to put it, so it is fine. Out of sight, out of mind. Right?! Not really. This is just another way of postponing difficult decisions. And the decisions don’t go away when we push them to the side. But how do we do it a better way?!
I can be a little sentimental myself and need the same reminders as you about clearing the clutter from my life. It isn’t as easy for me to recycle the kids creative pieces as you’d think. Let me share how I satisfy the part of me that detests clutter and the part of me that wants to hang onto a few precious memories of this time that will never come again.
A System That Works!
The routine of dealing with kids artwork:
As you read in Taming the Paper Trail of Clutter, I deal with incoming kids artwork every week during my Home Management Session. When it never builds up, it is never a huge problem. During this weekly time, I deal with things like artwork or award certificates that I tossed in my inbox to avoid piles forming around the house.
This is the routine to aim for —
- Artwork is created at home or brought home from school.
- Right away I enjoy the artwork and discuss it with my child.
- Next I ask my child if it is one of their favorites and would they like to clip it on the art-boards in their room?
- If they say no, then we recycle it together. Obviously it wasn’t one of their favorites. Yes, my children protested at first to this, but after several calm discussions they get it. Calm discussions include me saying things like: “Art is sometimes just about the experience of creating, if we kept everything our house would just be filled with it and there would be no room to have fun creating new art.” and “We keep just our favorites.” Overtime your children will learn important skills of letting go. It is a muscle that must be exercised to be strengthened.
- If they say yes to hanging it up, then we hang it up in their room right away. Occasionally I will put something at my desk if they tell me they made it for me. If something else must be taken down to fit the new thing (one in, one out), then I will either put what came down into their memory box or recycle it. This is when I help make the decisions. I consider how easy it will be to store the thing I’m keeping and think about how much of this type of thing I’ve already kept. I might take a second to compare it to another thing we’ve kept to make sure I’m preserving what makes sense.
- If it goes in their memory box, I mark each paper with a permanent marker in an inconspicuous place (corner or back) with the date it was created. This will help file the papers if the papers ever get mixed up.
A long time ago, I bought five boxes so each person in our family would have one. When our family increased to six last year, I combined mine and my husband’s, so Cougar could have his own. Glad that worked out! The parents box has stuff the children specifically made for us.
Inside the box, there is a file for every year my children will be at home through their high school graduation.
Instead of calendar years, I divide by school years. Their first year file might be a few months over or under a year to get to the “August thru July” system. Regulating by school year just makes such practical sense!
At the end of every year (in July/beginning of August), we go through the file and select our top 10-15 favorites for that year to keep in the file, depending on the size of what is being kept.
Simple enough, right?
Respect What Matters
Honestly, keeping less is more respectful and honors the treasures/memories more than keeping them all. When we keep everything, what is really important gets lost in the sea of unimportant. Too much becomes problematic to store in a way that the papers are actually accessible. They end up filling a box or a large drawer or container that becomes a source of stress to even think about, and then ends up dry-rotting in the attic when we finally get it “out of the way”.
We keep our memory boxes out in the open in our office to be seen and enjoyed.
My kids love looking through their boxes (they are only allowed to remove one file folder at a time so things don’t explode into chaos). They ask me to tell them the stories of the stuff inside and I am happy to do it. And maybe that is one reason they don’t argue about recycling artwork of the past, because they are actually starting to tell the difference between the keepers and the non-keepers. That is exciting.
How much of your kids’ artwork do you keep? Tell me about it in the comments!
From my home to yours,