How Do I Organize Children’s Artwork & Papers

organizing kids artwork

How do I organize my kid’s artwork and school papers? What do I keep? What can I throw away? These are questions I’ve been asked almost on a weekly basis because it seems like every day kids bring home a new masterpiece to show you. Multiply that by 12 years of school and for just 1 child, you’re going to be overflowing in construction paper, string, flat wooden sticks, and macaroni portraits.

YOU CAN’T KEEP EVERYTHING

There, I’ve said it and you can bank on it. You can’t keep everything or even half of it. You’re not supposed to. Artwork from childhood should be enjoyed and displayed and fawned over. But as new pieces come in, it becomes a lesson in “out with the old, in with the new.”

It also becomes a lesson in prioritizing because you can’t and won’t keep it all. No 18 or 22 year old wants to have boxes and boxes of things that they created passed on to them.

However, they would probably like a curated collection of the best pieces and this is where your judgment becomes invaluable. Keep the good pieces, the ones that have meaning, the ones that were special to them or special to you. When new work is brought home, ask  your child about it so they can explain its significance. If it means nothing to them or they aren’t interested in art, it should make the editing process easier.

What you do decide to keep, make sure you date it on the back. Trust me, you won’t remember when it was created and neither will your child. Keep it on display on a bulletin board or the refrigerator. Invest in inexpensive frames that you can slide out the old work and put in new. Hang a line in a hallway or on a blank wall and use clothespins to display pieces. Show that you admire their handiwork and creativity. Include their 3-D sculptures in your home decor. You can even designate a shelf for displaying these types of pieces. When new work comes in, let them be part of the editing process. It’s important that they see that you can’t keep everything and you have to prioritize.

My best suggestion is to take pictures of their work throughout the school year. Jot down a note on the back of the piece if there is anything significant about the piece like it was their favorite or they especially loved creating it and why. Taking pictures of the pieces helps to preserve the memory of it without needing to rent out a storage unit to keep them all. At the end of the school year, review the pictures, select the best ones, and create a photo book for the year.

This photo book becomes their curated collection of the best/ most significant pieces they created and it can be shared with grandparents or other family members for a relatively low cost. You can use Shutterfly, iPhoto, Mixbook, Snapfish and I’m sure there are other options. I have used Shutterfly and have been very pleased with the results.

In addition to photos of artwork, I suggest including the following images to make a more complete documentation of their year.

  1. Sample of their handwriting
  2. Pictures of them holding pieces
  3. Pieces that they love
  4. Pictures of 3-D Art
  5. Pictures of the artwork on display in your home

As a part time artist and someone who used in inundate my parents with work not only from school but also from afternoon art classes, I know that you don’t really want a catalog of everything ever created to weigh you down as an adult. I’ve had to cull through my own pieces from college and have gradually edited out what wasn’t truly wonderful or significant. The pieces that I loved, I have framed and I do have on display in my home. You can’t keep everything, nor dhould you. If everything is a treasure, nothin is.
Happy organizing!

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