If you have young school age children, or older, you know what it is like to have your child come home from school each day with a handful of crafts, art work, papers, quizzes, and homework. The questions that my clients often ask me are, “What do I do with all this and should I keep it all?” My answer is “It is ok not to keep everything and only keep your favorite items. However, if you want to keep a lot of your child’s mementos, I would recommend that you keep their favorite art pieces, crafts, a couple of tests/quizzes and hand written stories from each grade.” Myself, I was not one to keep a lot of the items from each grade. Instead, I focused on keeping a smaller collection of my children’s favorite art work and school work.

Now that you know what to keep, what do you do with them? Often I come across children’s school papers and art work stuffed in boxes, unorganized, and stored in my clients storage rooms or in basements. Rather than keeping them stuffed in a box or container with no order, here are a few fun and easy ways to organize your children’s school work. Each method is practical, organized and easy to store.

The first one is the File Box with Hanging Files method. These boxes are usually found at stationary stores like Staples or big box stores like Walmart.
– Label the outside of the container with your child’s name on it
– Hang several hanging file folders and label each folder kindergarten to grade 12
– You can also add additional files relating to your child if you wish e.g. health records, birthday parties and sports
– Put everything you collected from each grade including class pictures in each file
– Using colour coded hanging files is ideal as it is easier for your brain to remember, find and retrieve when it is chunked into categories
– Keep everything in each file organized e.g. crafts together, stories together, notes together etc.
– I also recommend that you use photo sleeves or sheet protectors to help protect the items. Some items you may want to even laminate
You can view how Destination Domestication completed her file box below:

Image found at Destination Domestication

The second solution I wanted to share is creating a scrapbook. It is a great way to bring out a decorative book and look over your child’s wonderful memories. This method can be more time consuming but can also be very relaxing and you will be organizing your child’s treasures at the same time!

The third idea is using an accordion style portable file. You know the ones that close in the front and have the handle on the top? These are also found at stationary stores like Staples and big box stores like Walmart. Be sure to put your child’s name on the front and label each partition with Kindergarten to grade 12. Add other names to the partitions if needed and keep your items neat and organized in each section. Use the photo sleeves or sheet protectors to help protect the items.

Image found at Delightful Order

The last solution that I want to share is using Decorative Binders.
– If possible, use one large binder per child and include all school years in the one binder
– Decorate binder with your favourite scrapbook paper
– Put your child’s name on the front
– Organize all of your child’s items per year and put it in your binder
– Put a tab per year for easy and quick reference
– Use photo sleeves and sheet protectors to help organize and protect your child’s precious items
You can view how Lisa Woodruff at Organize365 created her albums below:

Image found at Organize365.com

Now, what about the projects or art that are too big to fit in the file folders, scrapbook or binders? Or the ones that have food e.g. macaroni or are really messy and you really do not want to keep? Keeping all those big items would cause a lot of clutter, and for the ones that you really do not want to keep but feel bad not keeping, I suggest that you take a picture with your child next to the item. Having your child in the picture will make it easier to remember and reminisce. Write on the back of the picture the details of the project. Put the picture in with the rest of the school year items and you are good to go.

I would love to hear which method of storing your child’s school work you like best. Also, do you have a different method that you use to keep track of your child’s work and would like to share? If so, leave a comment below. : )

Until next time,

Kathy McEwan is a professional organizer, moving specialist and owner of Second Set of Hands.

Pile of misc items stored in an unorganized fashion

10 Things You Should Know About Hoarding!

Hoarding can be a very sensitive subject. I noticed when I am working with my disorganized clients who have way to much stuff, if a family member or friend refers to them as a hoarder, they tend to get quite upset, often yelling “I am not a hoarder!” What sets someone who has too much stuff apart from a hoarder? According to the DSM-V (The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), 2013 – American Psychiatric Association, lists the following criteria for Hoarding Disorder:

1. Persistent difficulty discarding or parting with possessions, regardless of their actual value.

2. This difficulty is due to a perceived need to save the items and the distress associated with discarding them.

3. The difficulty discarding possessions results in the accumulation of possessions that congest and clutter active living areas and substantially compromise their intended use.

4. The hoarding causes clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational or other important areas of functioning (including maintaining a safe environment for self and others).

5. The hoarding is not attributable to another medical condition (e.g., brain injury, cerebrovascular disease, Prader-Willi Syndrome).

6. The hoarding is not better explained by the symptoms of another mental disorder. (1)

clutter - Second Set of Hands

Hoarders often collect items such as bags, papers, magazines etc. that have little value but to them they have significant value and feel that they will need them one day. They continue to keep these items adding more bags, newspapers etc. as well as adding other items which results in their home being full of clutter. Often getting to the point where there is little room to move around in their home and it is not safe for them or for visitors to come over. Isolation and depression can start to take over. The following are additional characteristics of hoarding:

7. Hoarders are not collectors! Collectors take pride in their collections. Often shining them and showing them off. Hoarders are often embarrassed by the way they are living and do not want anyone to see their items.

8. Why do they keep all their items? 1. Sentimental reasons, “my grandmother gave me this” even if it is broken or they have numerous items from their grandmother, 2. Just in case – “I may use this one day for…” 3. Too good to throw out – “Isn’t this so cute?”

9. Hoarding often accompanies other mental health disorders such as OCD, depression, bipolar disorder, and social anxiety.

10. Where do they get all that stuff from? Some hoarders get their items from compulsive shopping, bargain hunting, free samples, side of the road garbage, garbage bins and stealing.

If you know a hoarder or someone that has too much stuff and is feeling overwhelmed, consider being kind, sensitive and suggest that they get help. There are doctors/therapists that specialize in this type of behaviour and professional organizers that will work hands on with disorganized clients and hoarders to help them achieve their goals.

Until next time,

(1) Reference: ICD – Understanding and Helping Aging Clients with Hoarding Disorder, Course Developer and Presenter: Renae Reinardy, Psy.D

Contact Kathy if you have questions regarding letting go of your items. She would be more than happy to help!

Kathy McEwan has a B.A. in Sociology, is a Professional Organizer, Moving Specialist and proud owner of Second Set of Hands.

Kathy McEwan Second Set of Hands