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School's Out! What to do with that big bag of stuff?

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I set myself a couple of deadlines today, and naturally, that meant it was time to organize. I spent most of the day doing important tasks like (1) straightening and dusting the bookshelf and organizing the kids' books alphabetically by series (instead of alphabetically by author, as they had been); (2) filing all my New Yorkers by date and culling a bunch of other magazines straight into recycling; and (3) opening and organizing that big bag of school stuff Truman brought home from first grade earlier this week.

It was mid-afternoon when I found the big bag of school stuff Truman brought home from kindergarten. An entire year ago! One of the items, for instance, was a still-wrapped stack of picture books from his kindergarten teacher. Well: it looks like I've had a whole year of failing to organize. We have a bunch of the sorts of things they send home; leftover watercolor paints, pretty erasers and special pencils, tiny notebooks and bags of crayons and colored pencils and safe scissors. Selected art and writing from his in-school work, and a couple of keepsake pictures and little memory "yearbooks."

I can find a home for a lot of it mixed into the regular craft stuff (one area where I've done a good job -- err, my sister has done a good job -- creating a lovely organizational system for the kids that everyone understands and can fix up). I know I should do something, like turn a magazine box into a memory box for each child's yearbooks and start them on scrapbooks of their favorite homework. (I'm going to do this. Really!)

I love the idea of digitizing some of it, but I'm skeptical about the longevity of digitization, unless, of course, I put it on flickr (my only well-ordered constant in my digital life). Removable media goes obsolete and thumb drives get lost or damaged. Dropbox ate up so much room on my Macbook Air that I had to uninstall it entirely.

I think we'll go with the scrapbooks and memory 'zine boxes for now. When I met my friend Elly Blue to chat about plans for this literary magazine for parents I'm working on (more on that later!) she showed me a couple of copies of her great zine; I'd love to create something like that with the boys, with pictures I took and drawings they made. How great would a zine to commemorate each year of school be? While I dream about that, how do you organize the things that come home at each school year's close?

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I tried to start scanning everything so I could then recycle many of the stacks of papers that have invaded my house, but after awhile, it was a cumbersome job, and my printer is in a different room than my computer...but family members really seemed to like to see her progress over the year.

What I tend to do is make a pile of things that come home all year on a shelf, and half way through the year, go through it and recycle all the work sheets or pre-made coloring sheets that anyone could have done, also finding things that my daughter surely brought home that other kids had given her (why oh why do I need another family's crap in my pile!!!?)Pretty soon the pile is smaller, my daughter gets curious about what I am doing and she tells me what I can throw away. At the end of the year, the really good art comes home in a large, school-made folder, and the pile goes in there. This year, 1st grade's folder will slip right next to Kindergarten's between the dest and wall. And maybe someday I will scan them too.

I usually buy a package of large manilla envelopes, sort the artwork and such into piles (keep, send), then send an envelope to each grandparent or other special people. The kids can see the work is not going in the recycling, I can keep what I want to preserve, and others can appreciate and do what they will with the rest.

I don't save much of it, to be honest. Why? My mother saved everything. When she moved out here she brought it all and gave it to me. I have old school art projects, main lesson books from my Waldorf days, coloring books, etc. What am I supposed to do with this stuff? I don't want it. I'm not particularly crafty so it's not as if I'm going to decoupage (is that the word) some bureau with it. And I had no part in the decision to save it, so none of it is particularly meaningful to me.

I'm as sentimental as any mother, but I'm not willing to save it all. Each of my kids has one of those big, clear rubbermaid tubs. They are called the "special boxes." The stuff each kid considers truly important goes in there. It's not a lot: the major essay assignment of the year, a poetry anthology, a certificate from swim class, an art project that means a lot. Other art gets recycled or given as gifts to grandparents.

I've tried to wrap presents to kid's friends, grandparents, even to Dad from painting/coloring pages and he tells me NO. I want to save it ALL. All the art, worksheets-ALL. So, it sits in a big pile and I sneak a page or two out. I know when he's at camp I will go through and save a few pages to repurpose for his summer fun projects& recycle the rest. We don't have the space for all the folders, not to mention next year I'll have his stuff and his sister will be starting her own collection. I like the special boxes idea, if we really had the space.

I save one folder per grade of work. Each child also has an art portfolio and I save three or four pieces a year in that. That's it. The rest goes to the recycle bin.

Most of ours goes in the recycle bin. We have special boxes for each kid. Saved items include their school "memory books" (do all teachers do this - it seems weird to me), awards and extra special art projects. We also have a few clothing items saved - first shoes, first birthday party dresses, or other special items. Oh - mickey mouse ears from our trip to disneyland... that kind of stuff. The art is saved if it is extra special or unique. The rest goes in the recycle bin.

My kids know it, too. They take part in sorting what's special and what's not.
I've explained that we don't have room for it all, and they get that.


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