My mom decided to part with some family photos and other keepsakes. She carefully divided them between the three of us, but my eldest sister’s pile seemed slightly bigger than mine. Much to my mother’s dismay, I am a true middle child and as such have the uncanny ability to recognize even the slightest hint of unfairness. When confronted, my mother explained that her motivation to carefully preserve memories decreased in direct proportion to her increased family size. A very nice way of saying that she had thrown out a lot of my stuff, because she was too overwhelmed to deal with it. I was a little annoyed for a long time, but now that I am a mother of three, I finally understand.
There is artwork and graded tests and kids say the cutest things in those fill-in forms—you can’t throw those out. So here is what I do. I have an art box for each child. I keep these boxes on a shelf in close proximity to the backpack unloading zone, in my case, the kitchen. Most days, when they are doing homework, I quickly sort through their schoolwork. I try to toss out anything that is obviously not a keepsake, for example inauthentic artwork or a practice multiple choice test. The rest goes in the box. This practice has prevented a lot of kitchen counter clutter, leaving me room to cook. (Don’t worry there are still plenty of other excuses to eat out.)
At year-end, we go through the box, they select 1-2 items, I select 1-2 items. The items we each choose to keep are placed in another box, the rest are tossed. Be sure to keep the box though, you’ll use it to collect the next year’s schoolwork. This practice, while painful for some kids, teaches a few important lessons. Kids learn to identify their best work and how and when to let go of the rest.
Here are the keepsake boxes for my three kids, stacked on a shelf in my home office.
When they are out of the house and settled with families of their own, I will pass along the boxes. Thankfully, the boxes are the same size and not see-through, so although my first child’s box is more full than the rest, my middle child will never know.