Organize & Clean

Memorabilia Mania: Papers, Artwork & Ephemera to Keep for Your Kids

published Mar 11, 2014
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(Image credit: Leah Moss)

Forget a box of chocolates. Life is like a filing cabinet. That fills up every year with paper. Real, actual paper. And childhood is where it starts. As parents, we find ourselves acquiring piles of paper every year and lament over each sheet’s preciousness. What to keep? What to toss? What to digitize? Here’s a plan for managing it all.

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To begin: don’t try to make every decision at the moment you acquire something. Some sheets of paper, in particular artwork and stories, as well as cards or letters from loved ones, need time and space before you can determine what really is keep-worthy.

The first step is to start with a box, a file, or a ring binder, where you can keep papers to assess at a later date.

Then, once a year, set yourself a date to sort through them all. Process them with these guidelines in mind:


  • The best work of art your child has produced that year. If you have a hard time deciding what’s best, go with something that is technically an achievement, that is different from what you kept last year, or that is a drawing of something they cared about that year. Try to choose something that is flat, which will make it easier to store.
  • A class photograph. Don’t forget to write classmates’ names on the back! Even better: make a note of their closest friends, too.
  • A special award they received that year – or – a best assignment – or – keepsake from a “best moment” – or – their report card. These things do serve as great reminders in our later life of what our early passions were. But don’t go crazy, and try to limit yourself to just one thing per ability or interest, and choose only your child’s top moment in that area of their life.
  • Their best story/poem/diary entry from that year.

  • Photographs! If they aren’t digital already.
  • Cards. If there was a particularly special birthday that year.
  • Artwork or stories. If your child is particularly artistic or has a passion for writing.
When you are done digitizing, create a book and print it! Don’t keep the files forever. This will help prevent digital hoarding. Having a giant digital library can actually be just as cumbersome as lugging around a box of papers.

TOSS Everything else. As nostalgic as we can all be at times, nobody wants to enter adulthood with boxes and boxes of memorabilia. Their life-filing cabinets will thank you.

Will this work for you? How do you decide what stays and what goes? Share your expertise below!