Organizing Children’s Keepsakes

Keeping the best and tossing the rest.

Affiliate links to products I love may be included. All thoughts and opinions are my own. 

Many of my clients are parents and, more specifically, parents of young children. Parenting comes with a lot of joy, but it also comes with a lot of stuff. It can be hard to say goodbye to belongings a child has outgrown or artwork they bring home from school daily. I want to share some ideas for organizing those special keepsake items in a way that honors the memory but will not clutter your home. 

Clients frequently ask me these questions regarding keepsakes:
What do I keep? 
Where do I store them? 
How do I throw away my kid’s work!?!

Getting artwork or school work under control from an early age, will benefit you in the long run. If you do not start out with a system from the beginning, it can feel overwhelming to take on the task at a later date. It seems like each year, my own children come home with more and more stuff! I’m willing to guess that many of you are in the same boat. 

To begin, I suggest creating a specific rule or guideline of what you will keep and what you won’t. This will help you calm the madness throughout the years. My own rule of thumb is to keep only uniquely personalized items. For me, this includes handprints, personal details such as ‘My favorite______’, and work that looks like it was time consuming for the child to complete. 

Why it is important to NOT keep everything?
Clients with adult children seek advice from us on what they should do with the items they have kept. They have held onto boxes upon boxes of items for their children, and now their children have no interest in collecting those items to store in their own homes and attics. It’s heartbreaking to the parent, to be honest, because they have taken the time to save this stuff for years. Parents often think a child will be excited to retrieve their long-lost artwork, but after twenty years of storing the keepsakes, parents more often learn it has been a waste of both time and space.

I strongly suggest that you focus on your child’s personality, even when they are young. Think about whether or not they are sentimental. I can tell within minutes of meeting a young client what their personality is like regarding their items. If you know that at 10 your child is not sentimental, chances are that will not significantly change as they age. 

Try picturing your child as an adult. Will they want thirty pictures of a star when they grow up? Or just one with a note attached that they went through a “star drawing phase” for a year. 

Saying it out loud will also help determine what to keep: 
Will my child want this in the future?
Will it last in storage?

I believe it means more to a child to hold the memory and not the ‘stuff’. Writing a note about what they went through and what it was like will be more meaningful than page after page of busywork. 

I also strongly suggest getting your children involved from an early age. I ask my children to look through their school papers individually. They tell me which ones are most important and what they would like to keep. Even my more sentimental child will typically only keep a few pages of work. I ask them which ones they spent more time on and what is most important to them. At age three, my kids could tell me what they wanted to keep and what could be tossed. Getting your child involved will help eliminate items you might feel compelled to keep. 

My daughter doesn’t necessarily understand what I am keeping and why, but she loves helping with the ownership of valuing her hard work. It also shows that we see her and love looking at what she has done. 

Finally, have a place for the things you decide to keep. I personally make and sell personalized keepsake boxes. Using a file box, I create tabs for each year. The box goes through senior high, and it is a manageable size. One benefit of its smaller size is that you will not have room to keep everything. It will help limit the amount of school work that is kept. I have also seen clients keep artwork in a large file folder, however this is difficult to sort and not contained. File folders do not have lids, so the artwork can fall out or become damaged over the years. 

Interested in your own keepsake box? We’d be happy to make one for you!

 I hope these tips help to cull your keepsake supply and allow you to focus on the items that are actually important to your child now and in the future. 


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