Where each day's colors blend to become "My Stained Glass Life"

We all have them.  Piles of artwork we can’t bear to part with, cute pictures our children have drawn, their first written words, the essay they wrote in 5th grade, the Mother’s Day card they made in Kindergarten, the award they got for being kind to a classmate, the newspaper photo of their baseball team.  These piles of memories can begin to overtake your home if you’re not careful.  There are all kinds of ideas for displaying these precious tidbits, but it’s not long before new ‘stuff’ comes in to replace the old.  It took me awhile to come up with a sytem that works for us, but I finally found one!  It has worked so well for us that I want to share!  With the end of the school year here, there is no better time to tackle this job than now!

For beginners, the decision of what to keep and what to toss can reduce you to tears!  It is hard to realize that you can’t keep everything, but it’s time to be brutal, people!  If you want organization, hard decisions must be made.  I have found it best to do this task on my own.  However, you can use your children’s pride in their work as a guideline on what to keep and what not to.  If they walk into the house and immediately stick their latest assignment on the fridge, it’s a keeper.  If it rolls around in the bottom of their backpack for 3 weeks before you see it, not a keeper.  You get the idea.

The other cardinal rule that we go by in our house is, if there are hand or foot prints involved in creating the artwork, we keep it!  In fact, there is not much artwork that we keep other than the hand/footprint artwork.  This is fun to go back and look at, because it is a ‘personal’ work that is unique to your child.  Any child can throw some paint and glue onto a sheet of paper, draw an elephant, or make a clay pot.  But your child will love to go back and look through their things, find their handprint, and marvel at how small they were and how much they have grown up!

So where do you begin?  I have 3 file boxes, one for each child.  Each file box has a manilla file folder for each year of school, beginning with pre-school.  I label the file folder with the grade level, but also the year.  So for this year, Lulu is in Kindergarten.  Her folder for this year is labeled, Kindergarten – 2011-12.  I have my favorite 8 x 10 photo of each child taped to the front inside of the file box, with all of the labeled file folders behind it.  This way it is easy to identify which box belongs to which child.  The 3 file boxes nest on top of each other, so I keep them stacked in the corner of our office.  On top of the boxes, I keep a small plastic box with a cover (about letter size), where I can store papers until I am ready to file them away.  I chose a rather small box as you can see from the photo so that I am forced to do this on a regular basis.  All of these supplies I found at our local Dollar General Store.  My original investment was under $20.

I begin by separating my big stack into stacks for each child, so now I have 3 piles to sort through.  As I sort through each pile, I find that I can narrow that stack down to about half of what I started with.  This includes keeping report cards, any special papers or awards, newspaper clippings, drama/music programs, and hand/footprint artwork.  This is what you will then end up with!  I have 3 stacks of items, one stack for each child, that will then be filed in their file box in the appropriate year’s file folder.

As a side note, you can always add special file folders.  For Queenie, she has a file folder labeled Pageant, with letters she has sent for sponsors, marketing/publicity cards, tickets stubs from past pageants, pageant programs, etc.

So for 20 minutes of my time on a quarterly basis, my kids will have a lifetime of memories!  When each child moves out, they will get to take their special memory boxes with them, to cherish and share with their children someday!

I have certainly found that organization is hard to keep up with if you don’t have a system in place.  This is one system that works for us.  And now that we can check that off the list for the year, bring on summer!

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