Organizing Kids’ Artwork and Papers

This is a topic I’ve written about, helped clients resolve, and talked about to Mom’s groups and it is always sensitive. (How can I not keep every scrap of paper that Seamus or Chloe have created? The agony of making me choose!) Children bring home mountains of school papers and artwork to proudly show their parents how much they’ve learned and accomplished during their day. And it’s all beautiful. It’s wonderful but it can take over your home, room by room, if you’re not careful.

So let’s separate Artwork from School Papers (no longer to be capitalized) and address those separately. I’ll talk about school papers first. These are the report cards, progress reports, samples of school work (emphasis on the word “sample“), activity participation certificates, school play or concert programs, and even things not associated with school per se like important letters and cards say, from confirmation or kindergarten graduation, class photos, team photos, mentions in newspapers, etc. I think you get the picture. For all of this I recommend getting a plastic file box with a lid (the one pictured here is from the Container Store) for each child and creating hanging files for each school year and putting them in the box. As these papers come in and you want to keep them, file them in the appropriate spot. As your child grows you’ll be able to give them this responsiblity and eventually the whole box.

file box

Any discussion of artwork created by children can bring on a variety of emotions so I will insert my speech on memorabilia here:

          • there is no set rule for what you should keep
          • you’re not a bad parent if you throw some things away
          • not everything is a treasure. If everything is a treasure, nothing is a treasure. Think about that.
          • you and your child will have to work out what to keep long term

During a presentation I gave, someone asked me what they should keep every year as in, how many pieces of artwork. I couldn’t give her a specific answer because I can’t make that decision for her. There is no specific number. However, here are some suggestions for what to keep from each school year:

            • a sample of art that your child drew or painted
            • a sample of a craft that they created like pottery or needlework
            • a sample of their handwriting
            • a picture of them holding one or some of their favorites

I have a client who has a budding artist in her home so her volume of artwork archives is significantly larger. Her son likes to create large scale drawings  that end up being rolled up and stored vertically. I know she is planning on hanging some of the pieces and framing them but she will also have to cull through, with him, the specific pieces he’ll want to keep.

A suggestion that I thinks works well is to take pictures of the artwork, some of them with your child holding the artwork, and create a yearly book via Shutterfly or MyPublisher. If you follow the same format year after year you’ll have a wonderful collection of books to look through and that will look great on your bookcase.

The one rule I would suggest is to keep all Christmas ornaments that your child creates. These can be a fun journey through time for them and can also be passed on to them later. I still have a much prized ornament made lovingly from a cut toilet paper tube, glitter, and a bell. Unfortunately most of the glitter has rubbed off so people wonder why I hang a toilet paper tube on my tree.

How about you? What artwork and school papers do you keep? I’d love to hear how you manage this potential clutter creator.

Happy organizing!


True confession: my least favorite place to organize


This may be professional suicide but I have a confession to make about my least favorite place to organize:   the unfinished basement. I don’t know if it just stems from my childhood fear that there was some sort of monster lurking in the shadows underneath the stairs or the abundance of spiderwebs but the basement is just not my favorite place to organize.

That being said and off my chest now, I can tell you that it is a place that I can organize very quickly because I know what lurks down there and I don’t want to be there very long.

This is good basement organization: ordered, off the floor, clean, & easily retrieved.

This is good basement organization: ordered, off the floor, clean, & easily retrieved.

If you have boxes that you put in the basement during your last move to “go through someday” now is the time to do that. Just do it. Before you have a flood or other water damage that seeps through the dirty cardboard and ruins your priceless photographs or other memorabilia. Chances are, if you haven’t looked at it in more than 5 years and you don’t know what’s in there off the top of your head, you don’t need it.

Cardboard is my nemesis. That and wire hangers make me crazy because of the bad things they do under the guise of being helpful. Cardboard is perfect for sending packages and helping you move but it is not for long term storage. It gathers dust, doesn’t protect from moisture, attracts vermin, you can’t see through it, and is ugly. Go through your boxes to make sure you know what is in there and if you need to keep anything, put it in a clear box with a lid and label it. Plastic is not impervious but it is a step in the right direction.

Do not let your basement be your old project dumping ground.

Do not let your basement be your old project dumping ground.

The basement is also a gathering place for project leftovers that you may or may not need to keep. I can tell you that wall putty, cement, joint compound, and 1/4 filled cans of latex paint will not last forever down there. Anything that is water based that has been opened will have a shorter lifespan than you think so buy small unless you are doing some major renovations. Also, consider storing those types of repair materials in a less humid and cleaner environment. Latex paint can be put into glass jars if you have a half gallon or less. Make sure you label the jars with the maker and color of paint as well as where it was used in your house. You could even attach the paint chip to the jar to be super organized. Seal these jars tightly as any air is going to cause them to dry out. Also, clean the cans and seal them back well if you’ve got enough to keep the paint in the original can.

While we are on the subject of paint, if you’ve repainted any rooms in your house, you don’t need to keep the old paint, do you? No sir-ee. That means you can clear that paint out and make room for the new paint. Less stuff=less clutter.

Not sure what to do with random leftover screws or nails? Use a glass jar to corral all of them (or use 2–1 for screws and 1 for nails) so that you then know where to look if you need a screw or nail. It’s all about creating a home for everything, even if it’s temporary.

While I don't love cardboard, it's perfect that it is not on the floor.

While I don’t love cardboard, it’s perfect that it is not on the floor, it’s organized, and it’s accessible.

Last but not least, don’t neglect your basement. If you never go down there then make sure whatever is down there is secure and safe. Add shelving units or pallets for what you do need to store down there so it’s not on the floor. Sweep the floor and get rid of cobwebs. Add some lighting so that the monsters have no place to hide. 🙂 Your home is a reflection of you and your basement is your foundation. Let it be a clean and ordered foundation.

Happy organizing!

Essential Paper Storage

What is the most essential paper in your home? Your child’s artwork, bank statements, your will? No, it’s toilet paper. When you need it, you need it and there is no substitute. Are we seriously going to talk about toilet paper today? What is the world coming to? The movie Psycho was notable for many things but one of those being it was the first movie to show a toilet onscreen and now, 53 years later, you get to read blog posts about toilet accoutrement storage! This actually is important because you know there is nothing worse than needing and not having it. Having an abundance of toilet paper is never a bad thing and it’s actually one of the few things I recommend having in excess. If you’re going to scrimp, don’t do it on toilet paper.

Pretty solution to an ugly problem.

Pretty solution to an ugly problem.

So what is Neatsmart’s solution to a toilet paper storage problem? Why, a basket, of course. It can be a beautiful container for something less than traditionally aesthetically pleasing and obviously functional, too. There’s no question as to whether there is any backup in the cabinet (that you can’t see) and if you’re running out, you know that without having to check another location. Win and win. I would even suggest not having a wall mounted holder if you had that option for maximum simplicity but if you have it, use it. There is nothing more forlorn or sad in a bathroom than an empty toilet paper holder.

Another option is an antique rice bucket courtesy of my sister in law and the happiest place on earth: Round Top, TX. The semi annual antiques events there are legendary and a great source for all kinds of storage.

Another option is an antique rice bucket courtesy of my sister in law and the happiest place on earth: Round Top, TX. The semi annual antiques events there are legendary and a great source for all kinds of storage.

Bathrooms that have pedestal sinks and thus no under sink cabinet are usually the ones that need this most but you could really use it in any bathroom. Where can you find good baskets that are large enough to use? I’d recommend checking your local Home Goods or CostPlus stores and garage sales can be a great source, too. For more inspiration, look at my Pinterest Board on Stylish Storage: Baskets.

So get a basket (or rice bucket) and pile all of your toilet paper there. You’ll always know when you’re about to run out and it’s always within arm’s length. I think I’ve said enough on the topic for a while. 🙂


Happy organizing!