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A fail-proof 3 part plan for how to handle ALL THAT artwork and school papers!

Our Fail-Proof 3 Step Plan for Saving Kid Art & School Projects

My kiddos headed back to school last week, and I know it won’t be long before they start coming home with all sorts of papers, projects and pictures. Last year, I struggled quite a bit with deciding what to keep and where to keep it. This year, I’m starting with a plan.

My plan is intentionally simple. I don’t follow through with overly structured systems for managing household tasks, and I know it’s likely to fall to the bottom of my to-do list if it isn’t amazingly easy. Here are the basic components:

 The Plan

  1. Have a designated keepsake box in my office for immediately containing the art, papers, awards, photos, etc.
  2. Have a larger storage bin that can hold several keepsake boxes once I’m ready to transition items to long-term storage
  3. Create custom photo books to preserve a large volume of artwork without keeping every drawing my children create

Keepsake Box

A fail-proof 3 part plan for how to handle ALL THAT artwork and school papers!

To keep clutter at a minimum, this year I’m placing a medium-sized keepsake box in my office so that I can quickly stash items as soon as they arrive. While most moms probably struggle with keeping too much, I think I fall into the opposite camp.

The volume of papers arriving each day – from book club offers to field trips to volunteer opportunities – is high and my tolerance for clutter is low, often making me a little too quick to toss key items. I’ve even been called by the school for failing to sign and return forms that required my signature.

The keepsake box is one way that I’m hoping to separate the important from the insignificant – and avoid future calls from the school.

Putting things aside in a keepsake box also gives me the ability to review items at a later time and decide, in a more thoughtful manner, if they are things I want to hold on to for years to come. And that leads me to the next part of my plan: long-term storage.

Large Storage Bin

A fail-proof 3 part plan for how to handle ALL THAT artwork and school papers!

Once the keepsake boxes are full and their contents are intentionally selected, I can transition them into larger bins in our storage room. I’m not sure how many storage bins we’ll fill over the years, but I know that space limitations will likely prevent us from having one large bin per year.

For now, I’ve labeled my first box according to the school year, but I’ll likely change the dates as I add more keepsake boxes into the bin. I used Scotch® Removable Chalkboard Tape to label the containers, which will allow me to continue to revise the ending year until the box is full.

Custom Photo Books

A fail-proof 3 part plan for how to handle ALL THAT artwork and school papers!

Creating a custom photo book of my daughter’s art has been on my to-do list for a couple of years, and I finally completed my first book last spring. This was truly a game changer for me. While I’m quick to throw away awards, certificates, birthday cards and school assignments, I’ve been much more hesitant to let go of arts and crafts.

Publishing a large number of my daughter’s paintings, drawings and other artwork from the past year allowed me to keep several cherished pieces while clearing away more everyday creations. More importantly, she loves looking through her book and sharing it with others. I wasn’t sure how I would feel about publishing a book instead of holding on to originals, but for now at least, I’m completely sold on the photo book concept.

There are several companies that make it very easy to create custom photo books – I’ve heard great things about My Publisher and Artifact Uprising. I fell in love with a design from Shutterfly that included Polaroid-style frames for each photo, and I couldn’t be happier with the result.

That’s my plan for surviving the clutter and saving the keepsakes, but I’d love to hear other ideas. What do you choose to save and how do you save it?

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Julee is a designer and mother of two young children. On her blog, Warm Hot Chocolate, she writes about her family, photography, home decor and life in Texas.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Megan September 2, 2014 at 3:23 am

Do you know the specific name of the style you used for your Shutterfly book? I have plans to do the same and hope to do it each year as a birthday present for my children. The oldest turns 4 in October and I’ve been accumulating his artwork! (I normally just snap a photo and sometimes edit it with a title in the Rhonda designs app and then it goes in the trash)

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Julee September 3, 2014 at 3:25 am

Hi Megan,
Our book was a birthday present for my daughter too! I used a template called Mini Masterpieces and, as the name suggests, it was perfect for displaying artwork.

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Laurie Vogel September 5, 2014 at 1:05 pm

I have saved artwork to do the same thing with from all 4 of my kiddos. How did you get the best photos? Often when I try to take the picture it ends up being “non-rectangular” due to the angle of the camera. Any hints or tricks would be appreciated. I know that there are devices that hold cameras but I don’t own one.

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