Family Organizing | Kids/Families

How To Organize Kids School Keepsakes & Memorabilia [Simple Method]

What I Learned About Organizing Kids’ School Keepsakes as a Professional Organizer

When my daughters were young, I spent many of their growing-up years feeling guilty. I fretted over not having time to preserve and organize my kids’ school keepsakes and other memorabilia perfectly.

Looking back, I also remember having high expectations. I wanted to create a beautiful handmade scrapbook for every single year of each one of my children’s lives. I dreamed of filling them with photos, artwork, and other keepsakes to capture every memorable moment.

Let’s see, I did the math and with three daughters, by the time they would each reach 18, I’d have made 54 scrapbooks… LOL!

Kind of lofty expectations, don’t you think?

You Can Let Go of The Guilt

I also know that I was not alone in my guilt. Most of my ‘Mom’ friends seemed to carry around the same guilt. Fast forward several years….and I now know that these were seriously unrealistic expectations. I also know that when it comes to organizing kids’ school keepsakes, it is best to keep it simple. And you need to keep less than you might think.

My professional organizing career led to a discovery that eventually changed my perspective forever. I am going to share that with you now…

Many of my clients who were empty nesters struggled with their adult children’s keepsakes too. I would often hear, “my kids’ keepsakes are taking up too much of my storage space.” They are often surprised that their children are less interested in their childhood keepsakes than expected. Or my clients hear this, “I want it Mom, but can you store it for me?

organizing kids artwork

So How Much Do You Keep?

Let’s take a look into the future for a moment. If you spend too much time fussing over and saving every scribble your child brings home, like my clients, you might also end up with a storage room full of your kids’ school keepsakes someday.

Here is what you need to know…if you save several totes worth of your kid’s school keepsakes and other memorabilia, you might just get stuck with it forever. Your adult child likely will be okay with taking a few keepsake totes to their own hoe someday.  But if you have multiple totes of keepsakes, it may be too overwhelming for them to take home.

Instead, they may just ask you to store it for them. 

Set a Limit For Kids’ School Keepsakes 

If you have several children, it can feel like a hurricane of paperwork flies through your door each time you open it to let your child in. So how much of your kids’ school keepsakes do you keep and how much do you toss? You know you want to keep and organize a select number for your child to enjoy when they are older. But how much is enough?

Let Your Child Manage Their Own School Keepsakes 

It encourages self-sustainability to let your children take personal ownership of their keepsakes. They will appreciate your trust in them to do so. Let them know that they can keep whatever they want, as long as it fits inside the tote you selected for them. Let’s talk more about that…

 

kids school keepsake tote

Select a Tote to Keep Everything In

Your child’s school and keepsakes can accumulate at light speed as they grow. Control the amount you keep by purchasing one tote for each child. Choose a size that you are comfortable with. I suggest a 16 x 13 x 10 inch tote for each child. This is about the size of a Banker’s box. Whatever size tote you choose, be sure is designed to hold vertical file folders. Let this tote set the limit for how many keepsakes are kept. 

Divide Your Kids’ School Keepsake Tote Into 4-5 Sections 

Label file folders as follows: Prek/Kindergarten, Elementary School, High School and Keepsakes. The section labeled ‘Keepsakes’ is for memorabilia collected from activities that happen outside of school. Activities such as Boy Scouts, baseball, and ballet class are good examples. Optionally, you can also add a 5th section labeled Middle School. My children’s middle school was located at the same place they went to high school so I chose to keep it simple and make 7-12th grade all high school. Do what makes the most sense to you.

If you are a busy family, it’s all about keeping things simple so you can keep up.  Minimizing how many sections you create will require less work on your part to set the tote up. It will also be easier for your child to maintain over the years.

Dividing Your Kids’ School Keepsake Tote Into Sections is Optional

If keeping the collection process super simple is your priority, then there is no need to divide your kids’ school keepsake tote into sections at all. Just getting all the paperwork into a labeled bin and getting your child to manage it is a big win.

You may also want to skip using sections if either you or your child have ADHD. Again, the simpler you make the system, the easier it will be to manage over the years. If you decide not to divide your child’s keepsake tote, simply add several hanging file folders and let your child fill them as the years go by.  

kids school keepsake tabs

The Truth About Your Kids’ School Keepsakes

The truth is, that as an adult, your child will likely look through their keepsake tote approximately once every 5-10 years. For this reason, there is no need to make your kid’s school keepsake tote more complicated than it needs to be.  Instead, spend more time on organizing things that you use often…like your closet.

How To Manage & Organize all Incoming School Papers & Other Keepsakes 

Assign a small paperwork collection bin to each child. Be sure the bin is at least 9″ x 12″ to hold a standard sized piece of paper, and 6-12 inches deep. Place this bin in an easily accessible location, a bedroom closet or a mudroom are good options. Have your child drop all incoming school paperwork into the bin every day after school. Have them immediately toss what they know they don’t want to keep. Let the rest of it all accumulate here. 

At the end of the year, ask your child to transfer all of the ‘keepers’ into their school keepsake tote. Let your child know that they can keep as much as they wish, as long as it fits comfortably in the tote. As the years go by, they will need to let go of some of their old keepsakes to make room for the new.   

Make Your Kid’s School Keepsakes a Summer Project

Each summer, I made it a summer project for the girls to go through their school keepsake totes. They would add the new keepsakes from the current year. As their totes filled up, they would decide what they needed to let go of. They would do this project together and had fun doing it. This is the perfect activity for those slow summer days when they complain about being bored. The best part…

I enjoyed not having to do this job myself.

 

Instructions For Younger Children

Yes, your young child will likely want to hold onto every cherished doodle at first. But as they get older, they will be ready to part with some of their scribbled masterpieces to make room for the newer artwork.

Younger children may need supervision with this project. Also, just to be safe…take a quick peek into the toss bag before heaving all the rejected paperwork into the recycle bin. 

Your child might not think much about that sweet story they wrote about their mommy when they were 6, but you might feel differently! 

Set reasonable and easily attainable goals for keeping and preserving your kid’s school keepsakes and other memorabilia so that you can keep up as the years go by. Your child will be satisfied enjoying a sampling of childhood memories rather than an extensive collection of every experience they have ever had. 

 

For more suggestions on what to do with other family keepsakes,

follow these links:

What To Do with Family Keepsakes

What To Do with Grandma’s Set of Dishes

 

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