Organization solutions for the artwork your child brings home.
Are you overwhelmed with all the artwork and projects your kids bring home from school. My five-year-old comes home with multiple masterpieces daily. While I love evidence that his creativity is nurtured at school, the sheer amount of paper that enters our home can be overwhelming at times. So, let’s look at my method for making sure that your child’s artwork doesn’t mean more work for you!
The key is to have a designated place where artwork and memorabilia go immediately after it enters the home. The easiest method is to set up a file folder box with legal sized file folders. Legal sized folders work best because they accommodate a wide variety of sizes. Label the folders by month and any other appropriate categories (more on this in a bit).
What about multiple children? You can either have a separate file box for each child or keep one, shared bin. Sharing one means less space used in your home, however, it may also mean that you can only store three months at a time instead of an entire year. When sharing a file box, I suggest designating a folder color for each child.
Let’s put this method to use. When your child comes home and shows off their artwork, you can ooh and ahh over it and then file it away. If this sounds daunting during the busy week, try putting it into a bin and then transfer the pieces into the month’s folder on the weekends. One advantage to delaying the filing process is that it acts as a filter. You can decide if you want to keep it when you revisit each piece at the end of the week.
In addition to having a tab for each month, you may want to include tabs for things like “notes,” “events,” “school photos,” etc. Our “events” folder includes items that help tell a story about an event. For example, after making our annual trip to the local pumpkin patch, we filed the map. My son loves maps, so this is something he may look back on with nostalgia in the future. Plus, it is fun to go back and look at the pumpkin patch’s growth each year
Before you file, ask yourself if the item is worth keeping. My son brought home a piece of paper with stickers. This did not make the cut. If you are unsure, go ahead and file it. At the end of the month, you can always go back and whittle down the number of pieces saved for that month. A good rule of thumb is to keep 5-10 art pieces for each month. (I am not saying 5-10 per month forever just until the next step) Consider writing the date on the back of the artwork, to have as a point of reference.
Legal sized folders help however, some pieces are still far too large. My son brought home a four-foot-long banner he made for Grandparent’s day. It was both adorable and huge. When over-sized items come home, snap a photo of it and then dispose of it. Make sure that your child is in the photo to show the size.
Non-flat art pieces are great but not when you are wanting to keep them nice and tidy in a file box. Three-dimensional items won’t scan or photograph well on their own, so take a video or photo with your child. Then recycle or dispose of it. This is the case with all art that has glitter! Snap a photo and get it out of your home before you are finding glitter throughout your house for weeks.
The Next Step
You have been faithfully filing your child’s artwork and now it is time for the next step. The best thing you can do to preserve these treasures is to convert them to digital images. I recommend doing this step once a month. If you do it consistently, it will stay manageable.
Scanning art is great if you have access to a quality scanner. You can also snap a photo of each piece. To get the best quality photo, I recommend using a Shotbox. A Shotbox is a portable photo studio. It features lighting, so regardless of the light in your room, you will get consistent quality shots. It also features a wide variety of backgrounds. Simply place your child’s artwork in the box and then snap a photo with your camera device through one of the openings on the top of the Shotbox. I personally recommend using the phone on your camera. It seems to work well with the openings and is easy to operate when photographing multiple items one right after the other.
Now that you have captured the artwork digitally, take the time to download the images. Trust me, you don’t want to have a year’s worth of art images on your phone. It takes just a few minutes to download (or if you already have them automatically backing up to your computer) and file the pieces and then have them organized and accessible anytime you want them. We will talk more about organization in the final step.
What do you do with the originals now? Well, that depends. You can simply dispose or recycle the pieces knowing they are easily accessible as digital images. Some items are special and should be tucked away in a keepsake box. Other items may be great to take to work or send to extended family to enjoy. It is up to you. Just remember that it is okay to dispose of it at this stage and free up space in your home without giving up the memory.
The Final Step Is Just the Beginning
There are so many creative ways to display your child’s art. Your options are limitless now that you have them saved. Let’s talk a bit about how to save them on your computer. There are options for storing photos in your computer. I personally use Adobe Lightroom Classic to edit and tag my photos, but you can use whatever you choose. The simplest way to save the images is under one folder for the year. For example, I have a folder titled “Anderson Art 2019” and that holds all of my son’s artwork for the year in one place. You can then create sub-folders with the individual months, or you can use keywords/tags. Learn more about this in an upcoming post or contact me for a one-on-one coaching session.
Now that you have your images, it’s fun to find ways to keep the artwork alive by creating personalized gifts and items. You can create a calendar at the end of the year featuring art from each month to enjoy the corresponding month next year. Perhaps a poster or collage would add colorful art to your child’s room. A photo collage or image can even be turned into a blanket, apron or shirt. Of course, books are always a great idea to display photos. Instead of displaying a coffee table art book bought at a store, create one with your child’s art.
The options are as varied as your creativity. Also, you don’t have to make a big purchase or spend a lot of money. Sometimes turning art into refrigerator magnets or coasters is an economical way to display your child’s creativity. Keep an eye on daily deals offered by companies like Snapfish and Shutterfly for ideas and great deals.
Now that you have a method for keeping incoming art organized, you can focus on the creativity and fun your child’s artwork brings to your home each day. As a closing reminder, if you and your child don’t love something, admire it and then throw it away. This goes for digital prints too. Should you decide that your child’s art it is still overwhelming, contact Lisa at HOPE Organizing. I would love to help you preserve your budding artist’s masterpieces so you can treasure them for years to come.
Published in November 2019
Updated in August 2021
Great tips, Lisa. I love your idea of a file box for each child or at least separate folders. And, taking pictures of the artwork including the child is a great way to remember the larger pieces of art.
I am SOOOOO with you on glitter. I joke to my clients that I charge extra for sorting papers with glitter! And seriously, three-dimensional art needs to be (photographically) shot and tossed, or you end up with decades of macaroni art!)
This post was worth the price of admission for Shotbox alone! Thank you for sharing it, as I can see so many possible uses (although, for me, it would be more for blogging, as I have no tiny humans).
Finally, your little dude is so adorable!
I love my Shotbox!
Thanks for mentioning how cute my little guy is!