admittedly, i'm a keeper. when my kids were little and i was knee-deep in baby books (and, trust me, 4 kids in 4 years will have you knee-deep in baby books), i held on to everything. by the time each one was 2 or 3, i realized this was simply not practical, so i refined my strategy so that i was only keeping the "stuff" that held a certain meaning. i'm big on "firsts." i also like the things that made me laugh - for example, patrick's very first drawing titled, "a duck spitting juice." he was only 2 and the sketch remarkably looked just like a duck spitting juice. we were not surprised when patrick quickly emerged as the artist in the family.
once the kids started school, the amount of those little paper treasures grew exponentially, and i realized that i needed a plan before i became known as the-mom-under-that-stack-of-paper. what i do works for me, so i thought i'd share it. if you have a system, great! if you don't, find one. really, people, it's eat or be eaten out there... we all need a plan.
every year, i keep a folder for each child in school. i do not keep every paper that comes home. i keep a lot - but not all. any paper or piece of artwork that catches my attention (because it was so good or so bad or just amusing) goes in their folder. i also hold on to anything that they were particularly proud of.
at the end of year (ideally), i get those folders out and let the kids "review" their year. surprisingly, they get very excited about this.
they enjoy taking a look at assignments they had enjoyed or projects they were proud of. ultimately, someone is impressed by the progression of their handwriting or some other skill.
this is the artwork patrick was most proud of from this year. every time he sees it, he remembers, "everyone thought i traced it, but i didn't!"
sometimes they find awards that meant a lot...
and they remember activities that were a lot of fun...
it's fun to hear them re-read the stories and papers they wrote...
after browsing through their folders, sometimes we thin them out a bit, but we end up with a collection of papers that sums up their year. when the folders are ready, we get "the boxes" out. see, as much as i like to keep and collect, i still hate clutter, so there has to be a plan even for our neat pile of folders. for me, that plan involves big, labeled plastic tubs that can be stored in the basement.
each child has their own bin, and in those bins we keep special childhood memories.
here is chloe's:
these bins aren't very full, because the kids are still young. but in chloe's bin, i have her school folders, her first year calendar, the bonnet she wore for her dedication, and her favorite book from when she was a toddler.
it's funny how much the kids enjoy going through all these old memories. they each grabbed their "old" books and ran off to read them. looking over papers from previous school years is also a big hit.
patrick found his turkey hat from his kindergarten thanksgiving party. as he tried it on, he happily declared, "it still fits!" you wouldn't think it matters to him... but he got such a kick out of that.
there are, of course, other strategies for storing kids' artwork and school memories. when patrick was in his draw-15-pictures-a-day phase, i would scan the best on to our computer and keep them in his own file. i've since done the same for the others. i've heard other people talk about keeping art portfolios for their children's best artwork. sometimes, framing a particular piece is a great way to showcase their talent and show them that you are proud of the work they've done. our kids get to have one thing on the refrigerator each week. at the end of the week, it gets filed or pitched... and they've come to learn that throwing out their work doesn't mean it wasn't good; we appreciate it and move on.