Organizing, Redesign & Staging

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Managing Kids' Papers, Artwork & Projects

One of the most popular topics I get asked about in organizing classes or by clients is managing kids’ artwork and school papers. Like rabbits, papers seem to multiply in backpacks and clutter up homes. As a teacher, I can agree; as a mother; I can empathize; and as an organizer, I can offer some tips. Setting up a routine will help control clutter of this type.

  • Determine where school papers, artwork, and other items from children will go once it comes home.

  • Empty out backpacks and folders daily.

  • Don’t let the kitchen become a dumping ground. Your precious counter space is not the ideal “filing” spot!
  • If you can’t get to the papers right away, establish an in-box deep enough to hold items until you can get to them, and make it a priority to review it frequently.
  • Next, sort through the papers and artwork using a 2-pronged decision-making method: either keep or toss. Although it might be hard for you to toss things for that first child going to school, imagine the amount of things you’ll have to deal with for each year of school (preschool through 12th grade) times the number of children you have.
  • Pick representative pieces to keep – i.e. one math, one language arts, one artwork (be sure to write date on).
  • Once you gather the keep items, sort through again where the two options are keep for you or share with others. In other words, the items are special enough to save but some can be given to other family members or friends.

What to do with the papers and artwork you keep?

  • You can have a “holding tank” container (i.e. under-the-bed clear one), one per child. Put items that are worthy of keeping in the container and then at end of a school year, go through the container again to decide if you really want it long-term.

  • Use photo albums and scrapbooks to save special items for posterity.

  • Put up a clothesline and clip artwork up on it.

  • A bulletin board is good as long as the items pinned there are rotated regularly so it doesn't become useless. Once the board’s full, no more art.

What about things you want to keep but are too bulky, large or awkward to save?

  • Use the computer to scan artwork or take photos of artwork or 3-dimensional projects using a digital camera.

  • Put printouts and photos in scrapbooks or albums. That way, the artwork can be tossed but you still have a record of them. (p.s. this method also works well when you or your child doesn’t want to part with a set of toys or a collection – take a photo of the owner with his/her special things, then donate/toss the items).

How about the things to share with others?

  • You can turn your children’s artwork into cards, wrapping paper or decoupage them onto surfaces. If you mount several seasonal pictures to a large piece of cardstock, you can laminate it to create placemats with easy cleanup and durability.

  • Purchase inexpensive calendars and glue your child's artwork to the generic picture. Matching seasonal pictures with the appropriate month makes a great gift for grandparents and uses up 12 pictures quickly and creatively (think Christmas gifts for out-of-town relatives!)