On his first day of school, your six-year-old son comes home with a fingerpainting of a fish. You want to keep that, of course. Then he comes home with some popsicle art. Gotta keep that. Next, he brings home his first workbook assignment, on which he got an A. That’s a keeper, too. Right?
Pretty soon, it’s November and you’ve got piles of your child’s first-grade schoolwork all over the house. What’re those piles going to look like by May? And more importantly, what are they going to look like years from now, when he’s in high school?
If you’re like most parents, you want to hang onto every report card, every award, every art or history project your child brings home, but you need a way to organize and store all those keepsakes. To help you deal with all that schoolwork, Space Makers Junk removal talked to professional organizer Leigh Ann Pigg, owner of The Tidy Pigg Organizing, who shared her top five tips for getting a handle on it all.
WHY IS IT SO HARD TO LET GO OF ANYTHING?
Parents want to hang onto everything, says Leigh Ann, because they want to document “all the ‘firsts’ that their children accomplish,” and they want to be able to look back at each year in a child’s life. “I have one client,” she says, “that has kept every science, geography, and art sculpture their kids have made since fifth grade, [up] to senior year of high school.”
And then there’s the sentimental attachment, too. “It can be hard, letting go,” Leigh Ann says. “Kids loooove bringing home every piece of popsicle and paper they crafted . . . so they can show their parents,” and parents find it difficult to throw out anything, “even if it is the fifth flower their child has drawn that week in art class.”
WHY IS IT DIFFICULT TO ORGANIZE ALL THAT SCHOOLWORK?
Parents, Leigh Ann points out, have to tackle three problems when it comes to dealing with all that schoolwork.
First, there’s the sheer volume of stuff kids bring home. “When it comes time to tackle the issue and start the organizing process, clients get so frazzled because they don’t know where to start,” Leigh Ann says. She sits down with clients and goes through each piece of work, helping them decide which pieces are important enough to keep for the future, and which ones can be tossed.
Second, there are so many organizing options from which to choose. Searching online for the right products can be “scary because you don’t always know what you need or what you’re searching for,” Leigh Ann says. Too many people end up buying products that look good online, but then they don’t know how to make the most of them. “Pinterest,” Leigh Ann adds, “can only take you so far.”
Third, an organizing system only works if everyone uses it. Those bins designated for schoolwork, artwork, and toys are useless if you or your child “toss random items inside” or no one uses the bins at all, Leigh Ann says.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF ORGANIZING SCHOOLWORK?
Having a system in place to organize your child’s schoolwork has benefits beyond simply decluttering your home, Leigh Ann says. A good system will save you time. If you put a piece of paper in a folder or bin as soon as it comes home, you won’t have to spend an afternoon sorting through piles of papers later. Plus, if your child someday asks, “Hey, where’s that popsicle Pilgrim I made in second grade?” you can go right to a file folder designated “second grade” instead of spending an hour pawing through random stacks of your child’s artwork.
Leigh Ann says that getting in the habit of organizing schoolwork also has long-term benefits for both you and your children. Having to decide what to keep and what to toss can apply to other areas of your life, too. Soon, you’re “putting your shoes back on the shoe rack instead of tossing them by the front door,” Leigh Ann says. "You realize you are doing small tasks every day to set you up for success in the future.”
LEIGH ANN’S TOP FIVE TIPS FOR ORGANIZING AND STORING KIDS’ SCHOOLWORK AND ART
USE A FILE FOLDER BOX
Within a sturdy file folder box, you can place folders organized by year. That way, “you’re able to collect work from an early age all the way up until high school,” Leigh Ann says. The beauty of this system is it forces you to “narrow down what pieces matter most to you” because a file box can only contain so many folders. Of course, you can always add file boxes or designate a whole file box for each year your child is in school. However many you use, you’ll be “saving yourself from having to declutter in the future” because you’ll have everything already organized in neatly-labeled boxes.
Leigh Ann also recommends the Photo Storage Craft Keeper to her clients. “This can be a fun way to collect work by taking pictures of what your child did, printing out the photos and storing them in 4x6 containers,” she says. "There are 16 small containers total, so you could start from kindergarten all the way through senior year."
MAKE A DIGITAL ALBUM
If you “have a hard time deciding which pieces you love, but you hate the clutter, moving to a digital album is the way to go,” Leigh Ann advises. Using your computer, you can scan each piece of work and store it in a file you can access for years to come. Or you can snap a photo with your phone and store that photo in a file you create. For example, you can use Google Photos, Apple Photos, Microsoft OneDrive, or other apps to organize photos by year, by person, or some other category. Most apps will allow you to create slideshows from photo collections, too. “I personally like to store all my photos in Google Drive,” Leigh Ann says. “Google Drive allows you to upload files, documents, pictures, and videos to be saved and accessed anytime you open drive.” You can share your Drive folders with others, too.
CREATE A SCRAPBOOK
A great way to get your child involved in organizing schoolwork is to create a personalized scrapbook together, Leigh Ann says. You can get a scrapbook album from a craft store, order a customized binder online, or simply buy a 3-ring binder from the store and make your own cover art. You can choose decorative papers, stickers, and borders to customize the scrapbook. As you add to it, you can write in facts you want to remember, like dates, what the assignment was, who the teacher was, etc. On some pages, you might add photos or jot down any comments or relevant sidebars, too.
FRAME SCHOOLWORK PIECES
If you have some pieces you want to display rather than immediately store—a paper with an A on it or an award, for example—frames are the way to go, Leigh Ann says. Frames “allow you to display all kinds of work in your kids’ rooms, playrooms, or even your offices,” she says. You can create a gallery wall, too, with matching frames or by using a gallery frame set. Framed schoolwork also makes wonderful gifts for close friends and family, Leigh Ann adds.
CREATE A CUSTOM BOOK
Sites like Plum Print will create a custom book for you. All you have to do is upload digital copies of your child’s artwork, awards, photos, etc., and they will design a book for you. Sites like Shutterfly allow you to create a book by uploading digital copies of your child’s schoolwork to pages you design yourself, using the site’s tools. “After you collect all sorts of paper throughout the year, you can go through each piece with your child and let them decide which art pieces they want . . . in the book,” Leigh Ann says. Going this route allows you to keep what’s important, without keeping the clutter.
DECLUTTER WITH SPACE MAKERS JUNK REMOVAL
Organizing and storing your child's schoolwork might be just the beginning of decluttering and organizing other areas of your home. As Leigh Ann says, once you get in the habit of putting things where they belong, you're more likely to keep that habit for years to come. When you're ready to tackle clutter in your home, your garage, or your yard, call Space Makers, your local junk removal specialists, to haul off the junk that stands in the way of an organized home.
Contact us today for a free junk removal estimate!