tidying up kids papers


I am committed to the Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. (It IS life changing. It IS magic.) I have worked my way through the easier items such as clothing and DVDs and am now to the big guns…memorabilia. I decided to start with the category that takes up the most space: child art and writing.

So that’s what I’ve been up to this week–sorting through our collection of child papers. Did I say that the collection is vast? Did I mention the overwhelming volume, multiple large boxes, the thousands of individual pages that must be individually assessed? (We have prolific creators).

This year I removed looseleaf paper from the house and have bought everyone a blank book. It has reduced my paper-driven anxiety by about 85%. This whole process of keeping only the things that spark joy that we care enough about to take care of has truly made me a much happier, significantly less angry and anxious person.

The last time I dealt with papers was a year and a half ago. I had gotten into a good groove of sorting through papers at the beginning of each month. But four hours a month of hole punching wasn’t sustainable and the holidays hit and… that was the end of that. Besides, I never did figure out what to keep and what to discard. Neither my intuition nor the internet has helped in that regard.

With kid art it is not quite enough to simply hold a piece of paper in my hand and ask myself if it sparks joy. I also wish to act as historian and curator, and that’s where things get sticky. (Well, maybe they got sticky when my family started producing 200- 300 pieces per month). Mid-game, this is where I’m at.


  1. I am committed to going through this stuff several times as I assess the collection and form a game plan. It also gives me time to beef up my skills at tossing things. You know, start with the easy stuff–the easily recognizable trash–and work up to the more emotional pieces.
  2. On the first round, I have kept papers that are worthy of framing, represent a significant investment from the artist, tug at my heart, belong together as a collection.
  3. Lia has produced a serious body of work through the last five years or so. Notebook after notebook is filled from beginning to end with drawings of people. I am playing with the idea to scan the drawings and print a book. Maybe even divide it into sections such as “literary characters” “Greek mythology” “family and friends”.
  4. There is also an awesome collection of portraits of Greek gods and goddesses. I’m thinking of framing the pantheon.
  5. My children will not thank me for handing over a large moving box full of their papers when they leave the nest. They will not want it all. (I have to remind myself of this to find the will to go on.)
  6. Sorting through these papers has made me see, once again, how exploration of their own interests is of such higher educational value than assigned work. (How many worksheets have I kept? None? Three?)

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