Before the new school year, why not try to get the kids’ artwork and memories organized? You can follow the EMEND process to make this overwhelming task manageable.  

Explore: Set Your Goals

Ask yourself a few questions. What are you trying to organize? How organized do you want to get? What will your end result look like? Do you want to organize these things for yourself to keep or are you looking to put them in a format that can passed on to your child when they grow up? Where will you store these memories?

Merge: Put Like Items Together

Gather all the items that have been scattered throughout your house. This might include artwork, awards, class pictures, report cards, sports photos, newspaper articles, etc. Make sure you look in drawers, under beds, in boxes in the closet, and in last year’s backpack.

Start by grouping the items by child. This may be enough organization, depending on the goals you set in the Explore step. 

If you want to get more organized, group the items by year. I suggest thinking in terms of a school year instead of a calendar year (August-July). This can get confusing, so it is a good idea to make a chart of what grade your child is in during each August-July period. 

Here is an example:


August 2019-July 2020 – 2nd grade
August 2018-July 2019 – 1st grade
August 2017-July 2018 – Kindergarten
August 2016-July 2017 – Pre-K

This will make it easier to know what grade to group the papers when you find a date on the papers. Consider including all types of memories like class pictures, awards, and sports photos in with artwork. This will allow your child to have a snapshot of all their activities and achievements for each school year.    

At this point you can take it a step further and put each grade in chronological order. Again, this depends on how organized you want to be. Organizing the items by year may really be enough!

Edit: Is There Anything You Can Toss?

Now that you have each child’s items separated by year, decide if there are any memories you can part with. Will you keep all artwork, or can you establish rules of what to get rid of?   

  • Rethink that handprint art. Some parents keep everything with a handprint. However, you may see that you have several handprint art from each year. Do you need each one?  
  • Consider keeping only one piece of art for each holiday per year. Do you need multiple snowflake cutouts and snowman art or would it be better if you kept the best one to represent Christmas? An exception to this rule is Mother’s Day – you should keep all memories where a child professes their love to you!  
  • Do not, under any circumstances, keep art with food or cotton on it. Ever. No noodles, beans or rice. At some point, roaches, mice, moths, and weevils will get to it. Not a pretty site.  
  • Keep the creative ones. Consider keeping the artwork where your child expressed their own creativity and not the ones where the teacher told them how to cut, glue, and color.
  • Let your emotions be your guide. You will pick up some memories that will fill you with joy and even tears. These are the pieces to keep! Not the ones where you pick it up and can’t even remember what it is or who did it.

If the thought of getting rid of any of your child’s masterpieces gives you hives, consider saving your absolute favorites and digitizing the rest. The picture of the artwork will still evoke the same memories and happy feelings as the original art without taking up space in your home. Plus you can do things with the digital art like load it in a digital frame or make a photo book of them.

If you still can’t get rid of any, remember that quality is better than quantity. Fast forward to when your child grows up and gets married or gets their own home. They will appreciate a binder or box full of their best memories instead of 20 boxes of everything they ever did. I’ve seen it happen – a mom brings loads of boxes over to a child and it is so overwhelming that the child tosses all of it. I’ve also seen the joy on a grown child’s face when they are given an organized, manageable gift of their childhood memories.  

Another option is to mail some pieces to grandparents or aunts and uncles. You aren’t throwing it in the trash, but it is out of your house. And it will brighten anyone’s day to open the mail with a sweet treasure from a loved one.

Don’t forget to include your child in this process. After all, it is their memories. Let them pick their favorite pieces.

Nest: Storing the Memories

There are many options, none of which are right or wrong. You need to find what is realistic to you. What do you have space for? How much time do you want to invest in organizing these memories?

Technically, putting the memories in a box for each child is organized! Maybe you want to take it further and group the memories by grade in the box. Maybe you want to take it a step further and put them in a binder in page protectors so you and your child can easily flip through and enjoy the memories. Maybe you want to be super mom and create a scrapbook for each year.  

You can frame it, hang it on the wall, or put it in a binder. 

Develop: Consider the Future

However you decide to organize your memories, just make sure it is done in a way that is maintainable and easy to accommodate future memories. Keeping up with your child’s memories on a yearly basis is so much more manageable than trying to go through 12 years’ worth at once! Consider making it a goal to organize the memories from one school year before the next one starts.  

Moving forward, establish a place in your home where you can dump the memories until it is time to organize them at the end of the school year. Do some initial editing before dumping it in your spot. And try to remember to put the child’s name and the date on each piece before dumping it. 

While working with one smart momma, we came up with this system. She had a file box for each child with labels pre-made for upcoming school years. When a new school year arrived, her dumping place was ready to go! 

If you have specific questions about this, I’d love to address them. Please leave a comment or send me an email at: