From September through June, your child is sent home from school each week with a folder full of schoolwork, art, class projects and countless other pieces of their inspired genius. By the end of the school year it's enough to fill a small room! Well now that the kids are settled at camp, it's time to slog through this paperwork and get organized.
I recently worked with a parent who had kept every single piece of schoolwork his twin boys had ever done - and they were now in college! Every test, every homework assignment, every project, every notebook. Every single piece! Once it had filled their basement to capacity, it crept beyond that and was stored throughout the house.
Avoiding this situation starts early in your child's life. It's not just about their art or schoolwork - it's about how they (and you) approach organization. It's all about setting reasonable limits - not just for your child but also for yourself.
What to keep and what to let go.
The first question is who are you keeping the schoolwork for - you, or your children? If it's for your children, get them involved in the decision making. If it's for you, still get them involved as chances are you might think everything is genius quality and should be saved! Kids are usually far more practical.
Either way, designate a drawer, a folio or a bin for the work you are going to keep. The size of this container sets the limit for how much you can save. Once the drawer is full, a piece has to be discarded before anything new can be added. One in, one out - it's a simple but effective strategy.
You can't keep everything, but what you do keep will be important and valuable mementos that you and your children will treasure.
But my child is another Picasso!
There's no such thing as artist's block in pre-school, kindergarten, or even elementary school for that matter. Say your child paints at least one masterpiece a day. At three hundred works in a year your child is more prolific than Picasso. I'm not heartless, but we both know you can't keep every single scribble. How do you pick and choose? And how do you break it to your child that a portion of the work you oohed and aahed over should be thrown away?
The answer is to make it a ceremony, not a purge. File flat art in a portfolio. At the end of each semester, tell your child it's time to pick the best of the best. Go through the art and pick a few pieces to frame and three or four more to keep for posterity. The rest can be photographed and discarded.
Einstein would be proud of that science project!
Three-dimensional pieces are trickier. What to do with the mock volcanoes and amorphous clay paperweights? Again, let them linger for a while, until the thrill has worn off, then decide whether something is for display or whether it was "a learning experience."
If you or your child really want to hold on to the piece, make sure that it is displayed in a way that not only honors its importance but also protects it from dust and damage. If a piece is not honored and respected then it has no place in your home - whether it's a science project or a family heirloom.
How do I display those special projects or pieces of art?
Use frames or other hanging devices that allow you to easily swap out masterpieces whenever your child desires. Putting up shelves to display collections, and setting up a 'library' of their creative writing categorized in 3 ring binders, will help your child learn to organize their projects, holding on to only the best things that fit in the spaces you've created together.
In this way they will feel proud of their displayed work and with their room neatly organized, will have more space in which to create.
Peter Walsh is the organizational expert featured on TLC hit show 'Clean Sweep'. He talks across the country and internationally about the importance of de-cluttering and organization as key to living a happier, less stressed life.
Peter is the author of How to Organize Just About Everything (Free Press 2005). Look for his upcoming book It's All Too Much (Free Press) to be published in late 2006..
Visit Peter's website at www.peterwalshdesign.com to read more about his work and approach to organization.
CLICK HERE to purchase Peter's book How to Organize Just about Everything
CLICK HERE for more ways to display your child's artwork.