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June 08, 2006

creative organizing challenge: create a school artwork binder

Do you have stacks or boxes or piles of papers your kids have brought home from school or daycare? Not sure what to do with them? I know the feeling. For me, this is one of the hardest things to throw away (and it's hard for my kids to see me do it.)

So here's my strategy. In my laundry room (our main entry into the house) we have a collection bin for papers. After going through the daily stash of artwork, schoolwork and other creations, and culling out any papers that require attention, the creations are first, admired and then, put in the bin to "age."

After a sufficient aging period, the kids and I create a binder for their most important papers using a three-ring binder and three-hole punch. How do you know the aging period is up? It depends. If you love to organize, you can probably tackle a bigger pile and therefore handle a longer aging process. If organizing and purging papers isn't so much fun for you, I'd recommend a shorter aging period. Collect fewer papers and go through them more often. My current strategy is to do this about twice a school year. I know the aging is complete when the bin is too full to put anything else in and that spurs me into action.

We set aside a weekend morning and go through the art and other papers --- deciding which things to keep, which things to send to grandmas and grandpas and which things to recycle. I let my kids be involved in the process so we're sure to keep the things that are most special to them (and we also keep my personal favorites.)

Once we've sorted, we start punching holes and putting papers in the binder. For larger piece of artwork, we turn them sideways, punch the holes, and then fold the paper so it fits in the binder. The picture below shows large artwork unfolded:


For odd shaped items (like the turkey shown below) slide them into the binder's front pocket or a page protector.


It's a simple project but effective for keeping these types of paper safe, sound, and most importantly accessible. I have a theory that if you're keeping something you should be able to enjoy it. With these books my kids can open them up, look at their accomplishments, share their creations with grandparents when they come to visit, and so on. The other thing is that this project creates a limit --- we only keep what will fit in the binder (yes it's bulging just a bit, but I'm OK with that. And one more exception ... kindergarten gets two binders in my house ... indicating once again one of my weaknesses: kindergarten artwork.)

Here's a little bonus tip for you scrapbookers: once you have your child's binder together, make a scrapbook page. What does the binder tell you about your child and his or her past year? What did he learn? What was she "into"? Which subjects does your child excel in? Any struggles? And so on. The artwork and schoolwork tells a great story ... one that would make for a fun perspective on a scrapbook page.

Have fun ... and as always, I'd love to hear from you if you take the challenge or even if you don't ;) ... hellos are always welcome.


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Jessica K.

Great idea and good job describing your process(I wish we had an entryway in our house - I have no place to make a collection bin). I am a pretty organized person but it does get me thinking...My oldest just finished preschool and we are keeping his things in an IKEA document box (it was a lumpy year) and it is already full. I like the idea of the binder though. Do you do one for each school year? or one of those giant ones?

Mary Anne

Love this Aby!! Thanks for explaining it in such detail!


Wow, this is great. My 3rd child is just starting summer school to prepare her for K this Fall. Got to be sure to get this one done soon.

Other challenges are still on the "to do" list, but I did get the bead stash out and search for mosiac tiles. That has to count for something - right? ;)



This is a brilliant idea! We just had a discussion in my house last night with my Kindergartener (oops, now 1st grader) regarding saving every single piece of artwork/writing that she's ever done. This will solve the problem, and let her make her own choices!
Thanks for helping us avoid big battles in my house.


Great idea! I have a collecting box (which I keep in the pantry, by the way, because we're always in the kitchen and it works), but have been unsure what to do with all the stuff I'm collecting. Now I have a plan!


I am very excited about this challenge! I have folders set up for my daughter's preschool art. She likes to look through it, but it usually ends with a big mess on the floor... No fun! Or my 2 year old likes to help, which of course means he's not helpful at all! Awesome idea Aby! Now I can keep it all under control!!

Thanks so much!


This couldn't have come at a better time! I was just looking through my daughter's kindergarten box, trying to figure out what to do this everything. Since school ends next week, I think this will be at the top of our to-do list! (Along with getting some of her larger/unable to fold artwork framed & up - somewhere!

Mary E.

I loved the idea for organizing children's art work but since I have no children, and at age 56 do not plan on having any, thought I could not use this idea...OR CAN I??? My husband and I are always collecting memorabilia (this is a kind way of saying we are pack rats). This organization method could easily be adapted to bringing order to what is now kayos. It would also allow us to find memorabilia when we need it for a scrapbook page. And yes, my husband scrapbooks too. Thanks for the great idea.

Lori Carlson

Great idea, Aby. I'm curious about how many binders per kid, etc. I have 3rd and 1st graders, plus a 4-year old and a 2-year old. It's a great, great concept, but I wonder how I would manage the sheer quantity of stuff saved? I guess I'd just have to be more selective. Hmmm. Great challenge.


I took the challenge and my daughter has been getting out her binders almost everyday to look at all her art! Thank you so much for the idea!


Julie Griffith

I love this tip. We have similar binders and one thing I added was a couple of sports trading card pages so that the kids could keep their most favorite cards, Webkins codes and other little treasures that are always getting lost.

Lasso the Moon

Hi! I'm new to your blog, and I'm going through the archives from last year. I'm a little OCD...anyway, I think this is a great idea, and that the "aging period" is key. That way you are more objective about them, and which pictures you can live without. (Most of our artwork goes to out-of-town grandparents, too.)

Anne Marie

How funny! I posted about this same thing just yesterday and referenced your blog! I do something very similar to yours and appreciate your great tips! With the oversize artwork, what I do is take them to Kinko's and get them to shrink it to 8 1/2x11 and slide them into sheet protectors. It works for me!

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