How to Make the Cut: Deciding What Goes and What Stays of Your Kid’s Papers & Artwork

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Kids produce a lot of artwork!

Every week, my kids bring home several handfuls of glued-together concoctions and papers galore. Not to mention those they create at home.

Of these, I am very selective with what I keep, and it has served me well. I have saved some very special pieces of artwork, but I do not feel at all overwhelmed by clutter. There are pretty much three things that can happen to my children’s papers. They are:

  1. Put straight in the trash.
  2. Displayed for a period of time, then in the trash.
  3. Carefully displayed and then labeled and filed away for posterity.

I don’t want to be burdened with tons of papers, because I know that when I’m overwhelmed, I don’t enjoy what I have.

I also know the value of being choosy from personal experience. As a child, I saved much of what I brought home from school. These papers and notebooks took up drawers and boxes and tubs. When it was time for me to move out, I was forced to face the mess. In the end, 99% of what I’d kept went in the trash. Because, really, who cares about elementary school spelling tests when you’re heading off to bigger and better things?

These papers had been in my way all those years because I didn’t take the time (or know how) to make good decisions about what to keep along the way. Seeing those stacks of papers, and knowing they had to be dealt with, was a subtle stressor in my environment for years.

SO, as a parent, I am committed to curating a very special and elite collection of keepsakes. You may think I’m crazy, but I only save about one paper per month, per child in this season. At most.

So, how do I determine what to keep? Here’s my grid in a nutshell.

Which Kid-Papers to Keep

1. Items that embody a milestone

I love when one of my children bring me a drawing or piece of artwork that excites or amazes me.

If I didn’t formerly know they could do that, I keep it!


This was the first time my daughter drew a picture of something recognizable… an airplane! I still love and cherish this drawing.


2. Items that represent who they are at this stage of life

I want to remember how small they were and how they thought, processed and acted as young children. But, I don’t need overwhelming samples of this. A few good ones are perfect.


This is my son’s Thanksgiving “hand print tree” craft. He loved getting his 18-month-old hands painted and stamping the paper! And I love those chubby hands. 🙂


3. Items that show their creativity

A while back my daughter came up with the idea to create an entire book about ways to love people. All the text and ideas are hers (transcribed by me).

The concept of this book pleased me greatly. It showed her understanding of concepts I had been teaching her with diligence. Also, it showed her creativity since the book was a completely original idea.


Clara’s “How to Love People (and Dad)” book. I love how her heart, and budding understanding of love, shine through in this book.


4. Items that I love

Sometimes, I just know it when I see it. As I evaluate my kids’ work for “keepability,” I’m looking for a reason to save it, (not just a reason to throw it away). By default, mostly everything is trashed unless it’s deemed special for some reason.

Sometimes papers fit the above criteria, sometimes they don’t. But if a piece of artwork stands out to me as something I love, I keep it!


This is a drawing of Jesus in my heat. <3 Love.


The colors and shapes of this appeal to me. I’ve displayed it often and still really enjoy it!


I found this self-portrait to be adorable. It is a quintessential childhood drawing in beautiful, bright colors.


At this point in time, I have one file folder for Kid-Paper Keepsakes, total. I prize each piece I’ve kept and have very specific reasons for doing so. Each is labeled and organized and cherished.

There are many cute things, (such as the squirrel print that my child painted and glued fake leaves to at church), that are cute, and I enjoy displaying. However, if they show nothing more than that my child can follow instructions and glue pre-cut pieces where they are told to glue them, I’m not likely to keep it for the long haul. For more durable projects, especially those involving fabric or upholstery, it’s essential to use a high-quality glue for upholstery to ensure longevity.

Just sayin’.

What about you? How do you determine what goes and what stays? Are you selective, or a “keep everything” type?


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  1. Elizabeth says:

    I keep one craft per holiday/ season per kid. I have twelve hanging file folders labeled for the months. I have a couple strings with mini close pins hanging up and I hang up past and current projects on them. When the season’s over, like Halloween just finished I take down all past projects and pick the two I’ll add to the collection ( I have two kids) and put them in the October file, then take out my Thanksgiving ones from the November file to hang up. It’s great to pull them out each year and enjoy them. I tend to save projects that my kids actually made (rather than an adult “helped”) or ones with hand or foot prints.

    • Yes! I totally agree! When the kids actually make something, it’s much more “save-worthy” because the artwork fully represents the child. I have seen those clothes pin strings, and I think they’re really cute. That is something I’d like to do at some point too.

  2. Kelly S says:

    I like this criteria!

    I take a picture of virtually everything my daughter makes (usually I just put it into a big box and photograph every couple months). Theoretically I’m going to insert these into yearly photo books for our family (with photos of all sorts of things, with a page or two for art pictures). But, I haven’t made the photo books yet so we’ll see if that happens.

    I’ll have to keep your criteria in mind for which ones to keep after I photograph!

    • Taking pics is a good idea for less clutter! Although sometimes my digital clutter overwhelms me as much as my physical clutter. Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

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