Last week,Â my husbandÂ went to a friend’s house to watch some basketball game.Â I think it might have been part of some big tournament going on?Â I don’t follow these things, people. (Just kidding – I know it is the NCAA tournament.Â No need for intervention.)
Anyway, since he was gone for the evening, I had a girlfriend over. And we threw out a whole lot of stuff.
See, Wendy has talked about scrapbooking (which I love) and I overheard her talking about feeling overwhelmed.Â This is one of my personal missions, to help people get a handle on their albums.Â I insisted she bring over whatever needed to be sorted, and I would help.
She brought 2 large tubs, 3 smaller boxes to file into, and another smaller tub. By the end of the evening, we had emptied the smaller tub and one of the larger ones.Â We designated a file box for each of her girls, and one for her husband (who is as sentimental as she is).
Why do I say she is sentimental?Â Because she not only KEPT but also DATED numerous little pieces of paper which her girls had scribbled on at least 2 years ago.Â (She is an artist, so obviously anything art-related is going to be hard for her to throw away.) Complicating things for her was moving twice within a year.Â And her oldest daughter starting kindergarten during that year.Â And, God bless her, that kindergarten teacher is ALSO a sentimentalÂ and artistic soul who sent home numerous notes and poems, along with more artwork than you ever thought a five-year-old would be capable of producing.Â At the time, WendyÂ said, “it just felt easier to throw everything into a box.”Â Therefore, that large tub contained birthday calendars, weekly class newsletters, monthly school newsletters, art projects, and possibly every worksheet done for class.
It’s all gone now.Â Except forÂ the newsletters that featured her child and select art projects (because there’s a whole portfolio still at home with the “important” projects).Â The smaller tub had more memoribilia type items from before their move to this area: playbills, birthday cards, and the aforementioned scribbles.Â The majority of these items were sorted into the appropriate daughter’s box.
It’s so easy to let this happen.Â Life piles up, and if you don’t deal with it head on, it will start filling up storage containers, and before you know it, you are moving tubs filled with paper that belongs in the garbage (or recycle bin, if you are that type.Â Usually I am, but that night, we were ready to unload.)
Not that I’m claiming to be an expert by any means.Â I am a pile-er extraordinaire, and clutter is definitely a struggle.Â But I’ve worked purposely to eliminate this particular issue from our lives.Â My key step for dealing with kid-related papers?Â EMPOWER THE KID.
This art gallery is the first stop for any artwork that comes in the door.Â Once an item needs to be replaced by something newer, I choose what I want to keep.Â The “MOM KEEPS” items go into a box in a nearby cabinet – one box (it’s a larger plastic sweater box) per year for all 3 kids.Â The boxes are labeled at the end of the school year and put on the top shelf of my closet.Â
Items that I pass on (because of size or simply the lack of artistic input.Â I don’t feel too committed to cut-and-paste projects!) go to Leah.Â She can decide to toss them (which she actually does sometimes!) or to hang them here, in her bedroom:
The entire blue area is corkboard, installed by the previous owner who had a son who liked sport posters.Â It words equally well for a daughter who likes art.Â And yes, I hung up the selections on the far left, which is why they are tacked up so high AND so well-spaced.:)
When all the tacks are used up, Leah gets to decide what comes down.Â And then we go through it again:Â What gets thrown and what gets kept – the “keep” items go into a plastic box in her own closet.Â When that box is full, we will re-evaluate again.
This may seem like a lot of work, but it’s really not, since it doesn’t all happen at once.Â And it’s amazing how few battles we have over throw/keep.Â Like, NONE.Â It’s lovely.Â Just being able to look at something for awhile and to have that recognition makes it much easier for her to say goodbye.
But what about all those other papers? you are asking.Â Here are my personal rules:
Birthday cards – I only keep the ones with a personal note written in them.Â If someone just signs their name, I toss it.Â Wendy actually had one with NOTHING written in it – she could re-use it!Â I totally would.Â Wendy had two other birthday related items, a checklist of thank you notes to be written, and a list of gifts and their givers.Â Guess which I had her throw? (I think it would be fun to look back at a gift list and see what you remember playing with, but didn’t remember when you got it.Â Um…maybe this is just me.)
Schoolwork – Yes, we have kept some of Leah’s worksheets although she is convinced that I toss it all.Â Her first “real” test I kept, in addition to the entire folder saved by her teacher for the two parent-teacher conferences.Â Wendy and I both kept our girls’ Book-It reading program lists from last year – it’s so cute to see what they were reading!Â Leah wrote some of the titles herself, so they are keepers right there because of the handwriting samples!
Newsletters – TOSS.Â Except the weekly class one featuring Leah – and her amazing teacher would send home a color copy for the mom of the student of the week.Â So thoughtful!
Playbills – I’m kinda a theater geek, so these are tough for me.Â If it could be important to your kid, keep it.Â I still remember going to a production of Peter Pan (albeit vaguely, since I was younger than 6 yrs old) partially because my Mom kept a newspaper clipping about the show.
My guiding principle is:Â Will this be important to my kid when they are 20 years old?Â Of course, to us moms, everything our child touches has special significance.Â But to them, as college students, less is more.Â
Another one of my personal philosophies:Â scrapbooks are for photos and smaller memorabilia like ticket stubs, a few special birthday cards, a program or two.Â All the rest of that can stay in a box or tub of some kind, as long as it is sorted and labeled.
Whew.Â That was a whole lot of high-and-mightiness from me.Â But I haven’t shown you what it looks like when two adults move multiple times and keep putting their own memories in different containers.Â CONSOLIDATION needs to happen, and right now it is nearly impossible to walk through my craft room thanks to all the tossing and sorting that need to be done.
In the meantime, I hope you feel empowered to throw away a few worksheets, and when I’m whining about aÂ box of lettersÂ a friend wrote me in high school, feel free to remind me of my own rules.