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“When you remove the things that do not matter to you, you are free to focus on the things that are meaningful to you” – Tsh Oxenreider

The last vacation has come and gone and there are still report cards, certificates, artwork, dusty projects and medals lying around waiting for a home!

It is one of the most difficult decisions that parents need to make; “What to do with all the artwork made by the little creative genius. Initially you think, I’ll just keep them all in a box but soon that box is overflowing! Do a little math, a box per year x 12 years at school, where on earth will you find space for all those boxes? Then you still feel inclined to keep all the books to make life easier for the next child… Please, let each child learn their own lessons!

When my children were small, I put together a “My School Years Album”. In those days one could only get spiral bound versions. It had a summary page with a space for photos and a pocket for certificates and reports. I kept the albums handy on the bookshelf and throughout the year, I put important items (report cards, a special drawing, and some writing) in the keepsake pockets. This limited what I kept dramatically, but at the same time gave me a place to store report cards and certificates as they came from school. At the end of the year we went through the books and kept a piece of something they wrote to show their handwriting at that time of their development. They had to put their name/signature on the main page and it was fascinating to see how that developed and changed over the years. I took photos of them with large projects and on the photo page added the mark and comment of the teacher that we had cut out. The art was limited to one piece, that was in one of the subject books or a piece of art that was really worth keeping. I added special things and cards they had written, pressed flowers, prefect badges etc.  On their 21st birthday their albums were handed over. What a hit, a conversation piece and a special gift, a keepsake which they love.

Why are you keeping it? Do you keep it for them or for you?  Will your teenager really want and have space for all the piles of stuff he has brought home over the years? Think again, do you really want to burden them with clutter or do you want to give them a special keepsake of their development?

Everything you keep should be meaningful. Set yourself and your child boundaries of how much you’ll keep be ruthless in purging, this will make sorting and storage easier and being able to view what you treasure. Rid yourself of clutter. Focus on the quality and not the quantity. It is more important to keep something the child has drawn himself than to keep a colour-in dinosaur.  Don’t feel torn about not keeping the physical object by involving your children in making choices about what and how to keep it. Explain that there isn’t space to keep everything. This encourages them to think critically about their work. Teach them how to organise and the value of giving special items a place of honour and letting go of things that are of little importance.  According to Edugrafix “it is an essential educational building block in the development of your child’s identity and self-esteem. By capturing his growing years from toddler stage till Grade 12 your child experiences a feeling of belonging to a loving family who values his achievements and interests.” As the children get older, it is a wonderful holiday past time to organise the awards and artwork of the year.

How to keep it?

As the art comes home, keep only the originals of the very best pieces. Write the date on the back, the name of the child and class; so that you know at a later stage who has done what, otherwise it has no meaning. Be honest and ruthless when making decisions whether to display or not.

1. Display and rotate the best artwork in a designated area where it can be appreciated, like a bulletin board, magnetic strip or have a wall where art is displayed in clip or box frames. Display large 3-d projects for a short while on a shelf. Photograph your child with it and place the teachers comment in the adjacent photo pocket. Medals and cups for sport or cultural awards can be displayed on a bookshelf in their room. When they have outgrown them or you have captured it digitally, return it to the school so that they can reuse it. Keep only the plaque, to display with the photo.

2. Store it – in a designated box, art portfolio or a large envelope. Label it with child’s name, school, grade, year and the teacher’s name on the outside and keep samples of schoolwork and photos in it until you take time to make a decision.


Capture them digitally. Take pictures of the artwork. Create a photo book per school year or create one beautiful coffee table photo book with pictures of artwork, certificates and photos, but let the originals go, you have preserved it.

3. File reports, certificates and photos immediately in a School album. This is my personal favourite. View and order here

4. Order doesn’t matter – it is the memory that counts. You haven’t done it in years. Don’t put it off any longer. Schedule time to get it done. Be ruthless. Place only a few items into a scrapbook or plastic folder as keepsake. Recycle the rest.

5. Recycle it in art projects or give it away…

  • Have personalised gifts printed with their art work, e.g. 12 favourite pieces he created this year = calendar. Use it on mugs, shirts, aprons, cushions.
  • Use cut outs on greeting cards or plain gift bags.
  • Use for wrapping  paper
  • Use as borders in scrap booking or as background ‘paper’ on the page.
  • Laminate art work and create place mats.
  • Use it as stationary. (Write on the back.)

Save time, money and space by being selective in dealing with your child’s treasures and accomplishments and store it neatly for them to enjoy.