How to Declutter Your Child’s School Papers and Artwork

Learn how to declutter your child’s school papers and artwork without losing precious memories, or causing tantrums! Proven tips from professional organizer, mom and former teacher, Lisa Menees.

Are you feeling overwhelmed by the volume of stuff that is sent home from school? You’re not alone!

Most parents are faced with figuring out what on earth to do with stacks of their kids’ graded assignments, precious drawings, tests, reports and – most challenging of all, 3D projects! 

Children seem to grow by leaps and bounds every month, let alone during a whole school year. Seeing the progress they’ve made between September and June (or whatever your start and end month’s are), can bring so much joy.

But if there’s too much, nothing stands out, and it just becomes clutter.

Let’s look at how you can preserve the highlights and memories, while whittling down the volume (and all that stress!).

PRO TIPS for deciding what to keep

As you go through the sorting process that follows, ask yourself these questions:

  • Is it meaningful to me or my child?
  • Does it show growth or development in a certain stage of childhood?
  • Is it original?
  • Are there duplicates or several similar pieces? (Your, or your child’s, favorites go in the yes pile)
  • Does it showcase their ability and/or personality?

3 phases to declutter your child’s school papers, art and projects:

1. First, begin to whittle it all down

At the end of the school year, go through everything you’ve saved and separate the special items from the ordinary. Special writing assignments that are about family, for instance, are definitely more meaningful than all those weekly spelling tests!

Once you’ve separated out all the special items, look at what you have and whittle the stack down even further. 

  • If you have 5 handprint art projects, do you really need all of them? Pick out a couple of favorites and let go of the rest. Or if that’s too hard for you, keep your favorite hard copy and take pics of the rest before letting them go.
  • Get your kiddo involved. Ask them what’s meaningful to them and important for them to keep, and respect their answer.  *Caveat: some kids feel that EVERYTHING is precious and important to keep; if that’s the case with your kiddo: 
    • Create a display/gallery wall with a finite amount of space where they have to choose and negotiate what stays.  
    • Save things in a tub or file for a while, and eliminate things periodically as they forget about them.
  • Give yourself a finite amount of space to store the school/art work. Once it’s full you have to negotiate what stays and what goes to keep within that space.
    • I allowed myself 1 tub per child for all the artwork and school work.

2. Ease stress by choosing to gradually declutter your child’s school papers

If you (or your little ones) are very attached to their stuff, there’s no need to view this as a complete purge! Decluttering will get easier as the years go by… 

All of the things that were imperative to keep from Kindergarten are important at the time, but by the time they are in 6th grade, fewer and fewer of those items are as important as they were initially. 

Also, typically, the papers and artwork from the younger grades are more sentimental than the things from jr. high and high school – we typically save less and less as they get older.

  • Ask yourself who you are saving it for – if you’re saving it for YOU because you love it and enjoy looking back over their school years, then great! If you have the space, save whatever is meaningful and enjoyable to you. 
  • If you are saving it all to give/show to your adult kids or grandkids, then you definitely need to get their input. If something is not meaningful to them, don’t save it to give it back to them as an adult – they will want it even less then! If they don’t care, or don’t want the stuff, respect their choice.

3. What to do with what you decide to keep

Now that you have made your school papers, artwork and projects culled down to a more manageable size, it’s time to decide what to do with them.

Some you may want to display, others are fine in albums or bins. 3D projects, in particular, are often best saved through photos – at least once your child gets to an age when they no longer want them to have pride of place in their room.

One of the things I enjoy most is helping people find creative solutions for storing and/or accessing their “stuff” in ways that enhance their life. Decluttering isn’t just about clearing the counters and shelves, it’s about being able to find what you want when you want it – and getting more joy and satisfaction from the things you have!

Here are some products that my clients and I have really loved and can help you store/organize what you decide to keep:

Display a featured piece:
    • Artwork storage frame This one’s magnetic closure makes it super easy to open and close, so you can change out the display any time. Use it to hold artwork, precious cards, photos, papers – anything up to about standard letter-sized sheets.
Store multiple pages in these organizing portfolios and boxes
Share with others

Are there other family members and friends who want to see the masterpieces you’ve decided to preserve? Here are some apps/websites that can help you store everything digitally. (Some will also help you share in printed/physical book form, and more):

In the end, choosing to declutter your child’s school papers and artwork is the best way to preserve the memories AND make it easy to access them down the road. If you’d like help decluttering or organizing your home, I hope you’ll give me a call – in person or virtual, I’ll find ways to ramp up the joy you feel in your space, every day.

SOS by Lisa | Professional Organizer, Home Organizer
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