organize your child's memorabilia

Back-to-School Tips, Part 4: Organizing Your Child’s Memorabilia

As a parent, it is your right and rite (of passage, that is) to chronicle every step of your child’s life: the certificate congratulating them on learning the freestyle in their swim lesson, the school program where your child was the turkey in the Thanksgiving play, the A+ tests and the stories they wrote about their family vacations.

These memories provide such a beautiful window into their world! And as a sentimental person, it’s hard to let these memories go, slip through your hands and fade away as your child grows older and is no longer that precious 6-year-old who would run to you and throw his arms around your neck. I know…because I’m going through those growing pains myself.


For my last post of back-to-school tips, I am going to offer you suggestions on how you can manage, organize and archive that third category of paper that is generated by your child: memorabilia. This category is different from managing school papers that come home daily with your child and quite distinct from artwork. The memorabilia collected here includes yearbooks, class photos, report cards, certificates, school/concert programs and significant work from school.

I thought this category would be the easiest of all three categories to organize, but based on personal experience, it’s proven to be the most difficult! The amount of paper generated to mark your child’s progress and celebrate your child’s achievements can be overwhelming. But if you create a system, there is a way to manage it all.

Two of my favorite organizing bloggers present their systems which include gathering memorabilia and creating a folder by each school year. Great ideas and printables (labels + cover pages + memory catchers) are included at the links below!

I Heart Organizing

How to create a school memory bank

Creating a School Memory Bank

School Paperwork Storage

A Bowl Full of Lemons

Keepsake Boxes

My Memorabilia System

No system is perfect, and the system you choose should match your natural ability to sort, edit and choose what’s worth saving. A lot will be determined by how sentimental you are: for some parents, one folder per school year and one bin per child may suffice; for others, it could be several folders per school year and more bins per child to collect memorabilia for their extracurricular activities.

In my case, another factor is my child’s teacher: at the end of the school year, some teachers send home every test, project, science journal and writing notebook, which then becomes your problem to decide what to save. I have to admit, it is exciting to read your child’s wants, hopes and fears in those early years — and isn’t that worth holding on to?

By the end of 3rd grade, my son had produced 4 huge shopping bags of memorabilia. More out of dreading the process than carving out time to do it, I had not yet gone through the bags, culled the contents and refined the collection.


Memorabilia from preschool, pre-K and kindergarten was mostly artwork that was already sent off to Artkive (yea!), but there are still random musings or drawings that didn’t make the artwork cut and seem too significant to throw away.


First grade: our amazing teacher produced and sent home an awe-inspiring amount of paper at the end of the school year: a laminated poetry journal, a writing journal, a memory book and a STEM lab notebook among many other things.

Second and third grade: the paper produced is a little less voluminous (maybe I edited better as it was brought home?) but the piles are still large and require culling.  My hope is that this reduced amount of memorabilia is a trend that will continue into upper grades.

At the end of the day, I may want to – and could – save everything, but the truth of the matter is this: will I look at it again? And will my son really want to be burdened with all this paper? Will he want to lug or move multiple bins of paperwork with him through life?

My solutions for each item:

Written Work:
I am creating a bound book similar to an Artkive art book: I am scanning all stories, letters to parents and significant journal entries from pre-K to 3rd grade to put in a book that we can leaf through to read his preciously formed letters, sincerest thoughts and developing creative writing skills. The most special writing from each year will be saved in that school year folder.

Certificates / Awards:
I’m only keeping the most important certificates and not those from every swim lesson, computer class or sports camp he attended, but rather the awards that show significant accomplishments.

School Projects:
Instead of saving the entire science notebook, I’m only keeping the pages or projects that represent a significant amount of creativity or thinking on my child’s part.

Special Events:
Since I’m my son’s biggest fan (well, aside from my husband), I’ll keep every concert program, ticket, play or event that features my child.

With these parameters, I am diving in!  Here’s the first edit and second edit of memorabilia that didn’t make the cut:


And here’s the finished product!  I’m so thrilled to have my son’s memorabilia collection under control and eagerly look forward to the items that come home with him in 4th grade and beyond.


Now, when Max comes home with something worth saving, I’ll drop it into his 4th grade folder.  At the end of the school year, I’ll take a second pass and keep only the items that seem really special.  Done!  And on we go to 5th grade…


I hope these ideas and tips will help you create your own system to manage the tide and soar through the rest of your child’s early school years!

Do you have any special tricks or unique strategies to save your child’s memorabilia? Please do share – I’d love to hear them!

2 replies
  1. Jo Frances Greenlaw
    Jo Frances Greenlaw says:

    My solution after having saved Camp Longhorn yearbooks and memorabilia for decades, I’m turning over to my daughter for her to archive. Maybe she’ll keep everything since it is all about her!

    • Cary Prince
      Cary Prince says:

      Great idea, Jo Frances — you did your part as a mother to save those items, and now it’s your daughter’s turn to decide what to keep. The best part of this exercise is that it teaches everyone to edit their own history — their own story, really — and to hold on to those things that they really treasure.


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