What to Scrap and What to Scrapbook

5 Ways to Organize the Clutter and Keep the Memories

Elizabeth Hollingshaus - May 29, 2012

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Throwing out a child's beautiful art or meaningful papers is hard – particularly if you have good intentions to scrapbook them. But how do you store it all without renting a storage unit? Get organizing with these five tips.

Growing up in a family of seven, I led the pack in bringing home A’s on tests and art masterpieces from school. I would come home and empty my backpack of goodies onto the kitchen counter. There were always art projects I brought home waiting to be put away. 

My mom says she didn’t throw things away because she felt guilty throwing out our “hard work.” The piles of schoolwork accumulated and now reside in unorganized boxes in the basement. With all the things saved for us, she now spends more and more money on containers and is weighed down with overdue scrapbooking.

Doing the math can show the potential overwhelming future while collecting keepsakes for a child. If you keep 4 pieces of art or writing each week, that equals 16 pieces a month. Do that for 9 months and you’ve got 144 pieces per school year. By the time your child gets to college, you’ll have more than 1,000 papers, and that’s just for one kid! For you moms out there with young Picassos and Frank Lloyd Wrights running around, following these five easy steps will help you de-clutter – but keep the memories. 

Start Small. It won’t do you any good to say “I’m going to organize the basement today.” Rather, it’s much better to start with a small room. 

Noreen Baker, “The Clutter Queen” and blogger based in Martha’s Vineyard, says the kitchen is a good place to start, as it can be a breeding ground for clutter. She says instead of keeping informational papers about kid’s camp or sports information, just transfer the info into a pretty notebook or a big family calendar. It reduces clutter and looks great, too.

The beginning stages of organizing are perfect for thinking about your scrapbooking plans. Do you want to do albums or projects to decorate the house? Do you want scrapbook pages that display as many things as possible or only one or two things? Think about your style and the purpose for the scrapbooking.

Designate Space. Everything must have a home if you keep it. Before you decide what you’re going to keep, first decide where the stuff is going to go when you start organizing. When you start organizing, it might help to separate the things you are keeping into piles depending on what they are. Watercolor paintings could go in a folder while an Eiffel tower made from popsicle sticks could go in a plastic bin.

If you plan on scrapbooking some items you keep, designate a space to do the scrapbooking. It might be a whole room in your home or just a corner in the kid’s play room. Keep your supplies there and make sure your kiddies know that is your space to be creative. 

Spend Smart. You want to buy the right containers or organizers for the items. Marilyn Bohn, professional organizer and owner of Get It Together Organizing based in Utah, suggests envelopes for papers and boxes for larger items. For artwork and schoolwork, a 15” x 11” envelope is best. The envelope will limit the amount of items you’re allowed to keep. Label the envelope with the child’s name, year in school, teacher’s name, and school name. For larger items, Bohn says a Sterilite plastic bin with a lid (or any brand) is ideal for each child, as well. These bins can be found at Target or Wal-mart for around $4 each.

If you’re a scrapbooking beginner, you can purchase kits that include matching paper, flowers, stickers, and sometimes even adhesive to get you started. They provide an outline with ideas for pages. These kits are usually budget-friendly and depending on the company are around $15. 

Be choosy. This is, undoubtedly, the hardest step. You can’t keep everything your kids bring home. When deciding what to keep and what to toss, you can imagine the future. Is your life in 15 years really going to be different if you don’t keep this piece? Bohn says it’s a good idea to keep an example of the child’s first writing assignment, first cursive assignment, and then a piece to show progression as the year goes on. 

Emily Briones, an Ogden mother of two, says she has a system to toss things without feeling guilty. “I hang it on the fridge for 1 to 2 days so my son can be sure to show it to my husband and I can tell him what a great job he’s done. Then I put it in a folder in a specific spot in the pantry where he can’t see it, just in case he asks for it. If he doesn’t within one week, which is always the case, it goes in the trash.” She says she might save more things as he gets older, but for now she enjoys a guilt- and clutter-free life. 

Use options. It might relieve some of your guilt to not directly throw the trinkets into the trash. Also keep in mind it’s difficult to scrapbook anything 3D. Baker suggests using some pieces as artwork in your home. “Pick your favorite pieces and frame them,” she says. Another option is to use the drawings or art projects as gifts to grandparents or other loved ones. You can even use the big paintings as wrapping paper for another gift to loved ones. Another option is to document with photography. Take a picture with your kiddo with the project. A photo is easy to keep, to display, and the easiest to scrapbook. You can even create a photo collage of their artwork to go on their bedroom wall like this adorable example.

For some moms, getting started might take a little mental preparation. Take a deep breath, make a goal to start tomorrow, and if you follow these 5 steps, you’ll be on your way to a de-cluttered house with no guilt and lots of memories. 

© LDS Living, May/June 2012.

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