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Organizing All That Stuff That Kids Bring Home From School


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:


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).

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.



(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!


Have a wonderful weekend! 

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127 thoughts

  1. Susan Hessler says…

    I'm right there with you Ali. I've recently been going through some major changes in my life and my coping mechanism seems to be cleaning and organizing - with a big dose of decluttering and purging. Sometime it just feels like there is too much stuff.
    Still, memorabilia feels really important to me right now. When I was cleaning I found a big box of letters that my college friends and my best friend had written me when I was abroad for my junior year. Looking back on them really reminded me that I have been blessed to have amazing people with me on this journey at every point along the path. Finding those letters and photos reminded me of who I was, and who I am. I so want to find a suitable way to scrapbook them and make them accessible.
    I had a set of storage drawers for years - one for each family member - and just stuffed things in there hoping to organize later. Now that I'm really wrapping my head around these projects, that storage method seems to have worked. I have sorted the memorabilia down a bit, but really there are some treasures.
    I think, more than any other part of this discussion, it is the intention that matters. I love my children. Many of the moments represented by this memorabilia were happy, even joyous for me. I want to hold onto that joy just a little, and I want them to know that they were so loved.
    Peace. Susan

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  2. JoAnn says…

    I have a great process for getting everything organized. I have these small, clear, plastic, hanging file boxes with an open lid from Office Max. I have 2 and have files in there for each month, plus "school info" and "sports info". Each week, I grab a few papers with meaning, file it in the appropriate month (in case I forget to date it, it's in the right month) and at the end of the year, create my "school of life" album pages, file in page protectors what I want, put away to scrap other things, and have a "large memory" bin for the things that can't fit anywhere the Kindergarten memory book. By Sept., I have empty files to begin again.
    This method works so well for me, because all of the "imp. papers" are easily accessable...flyers for fundraisers, school directory, etc. I started with just one for each kid, they got too stuffed, and moved to 2 each. Then, because they were so helpful, I bought one for "family" stuff, like Disneyland membership cards (things both my husband and I need to access) or immunization/medical cards, and another for my personal stuff (like my abandoned 365 project). The open lid is KEY!

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  3. Susan Roh says…

    Love all the ideas shared already!! I grew up with a mom who was cut throat about clutter and kept only the bare minimum of our things from our childhood. I, am by nature a packrat and love to hoard...although that tendency is waning as I have learned to be ruthless with the amount of "stuff" I want to keep and move around. I am too tactile to get rid of all the actual items, but I think a mix of scanning and keeping representative pieces will work for me and the kids.
    I do display all the art on the side of our kitchen island for one week...sort of makeshift wallpaper, then purge. That way I can see it up and decide which one I want ot keep, if at all. DS loves to see all the lovelies he "made" for us and will share the story behind his picture!

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  4. Tiffani says…

    Thanks for sharing this. I enjoyed re-reading the post about your album organization, too.
    I've been hoping that you will share your process about have you decide which album to put layouts in as Anna grows and you have pages of her and Simon together. We have 3 kids and until fairly recently, I have just scrapped chronologically, without creating seperate albums for each child. But now that I have started their own albums, am not always sure where to put each layout... It would be interesting/helpful to follow along with how you make some of those decisions as it comes up if you don't mind sharing!

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  5. Daphne Arambula says…

    I love YOUR work. You are truly amazing and an inspiration. Given that you have a child with autism, I thought you would appreciate seeing this video. Ther are no limits to human kind! My big sister is autistic and she has an ivy league education. :-) Enjoy!

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  6. MARILYN NIMMO says…

    I didn't start scrapbooking until my son was grown. So, I have a couple of large boxes of just STUFF from school - pre-k through college. I purchases Becky Higgins School Kit to help me organize what I have in some fashion. What I don't have, I may just make journaling pages full of memories. I haven't tackled the project yet. I've been organizing my space so that I can tackle that and the bins of photos I have.

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  7. Deb says…

    A couple years ago I purchased a two nice poster frames. My son and I had a blast going through his saved artwork and school papers making collages with the things he chose. We layered and cropped. These prized possesions hang in our hallway for all to see and enjoy.
    My son loves seeing his work displayed. We will add another collage at the end of this schoolyear.

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  8. Brigitte says…

    Thanks Ali for sharing these !
    As for me, how i started was...ONE album and will give 4-6 pages PER YEAR (2 for the beginning with names of teachers, subject, their feelings at first day, first Day photo ect... what they like) and the rest maybe special occasion at school ect... butof course i do keep certificates, teachers notes, reports ect... as they grow older of course might need more pages (ie sports ect...) but it works like that to be organised and to record the most important phases at school :)

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  9. Arianna says…

    Oh good organizing hint... I don't have kids yet, but I think I'll keep this in mind for the moment I will...

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  10. alexandra says…

    fabulous! I've bookmarked the site! thank you!

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  11. bonnierose says…

    Oh Ali, glad I'm not the only one that has like 25 AC d-ring albums.. whew.. good to know I"m not alone.. hugs bonnierose in Fargo

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  12. Stacy says…

    My kids would be very sad if I pitched anything right after they brought it home so I collect all their papers in sweater boxes. I set aside papers I want for the scrapbooks as I go, but the rest just goes in the bins. At the end of the year, I put everything in a cardboard box and just put it downstairs and don't worry about it. They're happy because they know that I kept their things. I'm happy because I didn't have to feel guilty about throwing out something they spent a lot of time on. In 10 years, they won't care if I throw it out so that's when I'll pitch it.
    As far as the things I keep, I tuck the holiday art in the boxes with the decorations so we can look at it each year. I don't hang it up or anything, but it's fun to open the boxes and see what little treasures were saved. One other thing I do is take small items and tuck them in a cookbook or other favorite book so that when I am using that book, I have a little something special to find and use as a bookmark. My mom's cookbooks are filled with handmade Mothers' Day and birthday cards from when my brothers and I were young. They mark the pages of her favorite recipes. It doesn't all need to be kept in a scrapbook to bring back fond memories.

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  13. Fiona says…

    I've been thinking about what to do with all the art too. I've got boxes for each of the kids with everything in it and the kids each have a box that is meant to be the limit of what they can keep in their rooms (everything is precious.. and you'll note the "meant to be").
    We also give some of the art away, to grandparents in particular for their fridge, and some of it becomes wrapping for presents.
    Like others, I also plan to photograph and scan some pieces and make a mini album of art for the year.
    Now to get a bit more ruthless with everything I've collected.

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  14. Em says…

    Hi Ali,
    Glad to read you have a moby wrap! Good for you and great for Anna! Enjoy!

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  15. Ali Edwards says…

    It's great :).

    Reply 0 Replies
  16. Ali Edwards says…

    I think it totally depends on the kid :). Some kids are more interested in the art projects and such. If Simon seems really proud or excited )or shows an attachment about something he has created I definitely keep those things.
    Love the idea of tucking small things into a cookbook or other book.

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  17. Ruth says…

    i have a school binder for each of my 3 kids divided by years. the school binder contains all their report cards, school and class pictures, awards, and such. I love the idea of scanning the artwork and including them in their scrapbook albums (which i starting using BH's school KOTM). each summer, i sit w/ each child and go through all their paperworks of what we should keep, even the the ones i've kept over the years. i love the idea of scanning their signature! in the front of each school binder, i use a trading card pocket & place a school picture of each year. my kids love to open their binders and talk about how much they've changed over the years. I have a HS daughter and my goal is try to upkeep her album before graduation which means i have 3 years to complete starting now (she's a freshman). i am trying to compile a bunch of pictures from her friends to make a photo book w/ the "Freshman Year Highlights" to pass out at the end of the year.
    Thanks Ali for reminding on this never-ending project!

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  18. gail lindekugel says…

    LOVE that sweet smile and what a great big bro!!
    These are the good old days....

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  19. kari d says…

    This is one of the projects that I have been dreading to do but it is always helpful to see what others are doing to solve the massive school paper art project/can't throw it away stuff. It's funny I think one of my daughters did the same Santa/cotton ball project one year too! Mine are now 11 & 9, so I do have a lot of saved stuff that I need to go through as well. Thanks for the ideas!

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  20. sofy says…

    I won't be very original but ....... I love or your creations ...kisses from paris in France !

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  21. Michelle says…

    I love, love, love everything you do! Quick question: where did you get the tan cover over the tall shelf that holds all of your albums? I am looking for that exact same thing for the exact same shelf! Thanks for your guidance!

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  22. Poupee says…

    You make me want to be a better mom! Thanks for being such an inspiration.

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  23. Scrapbooking Ideas says…

    Thank you so much for this post. I am helping my sister-in-law make a scrapbook on my nephew. And I found these amazing tips! I have overwhelming orders of scrapbooks but I sure would find some time to create something for my nephew!:)

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  24. Sarah says…

    I just ran across your blog and "artwork" today! Have to say I love your work!
    I have 3 kids, 22, 16 and 10 years old and I have a ton of school stuff. I wanted to offer you a suggestion (now; it was to late for me to learn). You could take a photo of your child with the "artwork" or any such thing you want to keep. This for a couple reasons: 1) Anything larger than your album is still keep as a keepsake, 2) and it shows your child at the time of the creation!
    For example, I'm NOT keeping the bug collection project for school! And the poster for the conservation project is 14X20" again I will have him display it and we will take a photo of him with it!

    Hope this helps your years of school paperwork to come!!


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  25. Lmkraft says…

    Can you PLEASE tell me where you found this amazing shelving system with canvas cover?? Thank you so much!

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