Every. Single. Day. My kids come home with a mountain of papers. I stand at the kitchen counter and admire each one with them until they are safely upstairs and I can decide whether I want to actually keep anything. The first ones to hit the recycling bin are the half-drawn doodles that clearly happened when they had 5 minutes in-between activities and were handed a piece of paper and a crayon. Then I flip through the worksheets... If it has a sticker or a note saying "WOW! Definitely going to Harvard!" I'll keep it. The other 99% go into the recycling bin to keep the doodles company.
The more difficult decisions happen with actual artwork and projects. My general rule of thumb is that I hold on to anything personalized (portrait, handprints, what they're thankful for over the holidays, etc), and anything I actually like and think I'll want to have in the future. If you're feeling uncertain about something in particular, just hang on to it since you'll go through everything a second time before the next school year starts!
For instance... I'll keep this because it's portrait of our family, with the additional bonus of Stella making me look tall and skinny with a good outfit and a hand on my hip.
Select a sentimental storage box for each child to hold all their items from the school year. This can be papers, tests, artwork - whatever comes home that feels special. Add a label so you know which box belongs to which child!
I like using the white Stockholm Boxes above, but use whatever works best in your home and for the amount of stuff you need to store!
Throughout the school year, put everything you're keeping directly into the designated box, but try your best to edit the items down! Not EVERYTHING is a keeper, and it will make the end-of-year clean-out much easier!
Important to note that these boxes should be accessible since you will want to add to them on a daily or weekly basis. I keep mine in our office, but putting them in the mudroom, front hall closet, or even in the kitchen, also works!
Select stackable storage bins that adequately hold your items (remember that some projects are oversized and bulky!) and won't be a burden to store in your home. I keep my storage bins in the attic, but find a spot that makes sense for your space and will allow you to grow the collection.
These particular bins are from Target, and they are the perfect dimensions for the artwork my kids bring home.
At the end of each school year, or at the start of a new one (or in October because you’ve been too busy and putting it off), go through each box and transfer the items you definitely want to keep into the storage bin. Think of the sentimental box as the year-long holding spot for all the “probably keep” items, and the storage bin as the “definitely keeping” items.
Make sure to add a label so it’s easy to spot if you ever want, or need, access! I hear Kindergarten photos make excellent full page ads in high school yearbooks, so I want mine to be easy to find!
TIP: It's fine to add to a box if it isn't completely full. Stella's Kindergarten box was filled to the brim, so I labeled it accordingly and it will go into storage. Sutton's box is only half full, so I labeled in "Preschool" because I plan on adding this year's items as well!
If you are tight on space, or only want to hold on to the bare minimum, we suggest taking a photo and creating a book instead. The Artkive app is great for this since it caters specifically to this purpose, but you can also use a traditional photo book company like Chatbooks or Shutterfly. These books make great gifts for grandparents, so it takes care of your storage needs and gifting needs at the same time!
Here is my real-time school year purge that I documented on Instagram Stories in case you missed it!