How to Keep & Organize Children’s Artwork

For most of us, a new school year is about to begin. If you have children, then there is no need to explain the endless {and I mean, endless} stream of artwork and papers that come through the door. And don’t get me wrong. I love it. I just love it more when I actually now what to do with it! So in preparation for this next school year to begin, I spent some of my summer getting all of the older masterpieces organized so we can start fresh this year. Keeping in mind that I still have one in preschool, so it’s really my oldest that needs the most systems in place. So without further ado, here is what we do around here {and don’t be fooled . . .yes, much of ends up in the circular file, if you know what I mean!}.
organize artwork with a thoughtful place

I was introduced to these black portfolios by an organizational expert. I had never seen them before, but I seriously love them. I picked mine up at Aaron Brothers. I found a similar one here online. They key is that they are archival safe and hold 48 pieces of work. They come in all different sizes {even huge ones for those really big masterpieces!}. What I love most is that it is easy to slip the artwork into each page as they are top loading pockets. I also like that that the are completely kid proof. My daughter LOVES pulling these out to look through what she has done.  She even takes them in the car to look through.

organize artwork with a thoughtful place
I used a label maker  to label each portfolio. You could also use the removable labels from the Martha Stewart line. I have found that keeping two years worth of artwork in each of them works quite well. That equates to keeping roughly 24 pieces per year. This may be too little or too much for you family, but for us it is a good fit. So I label each one with her name and her age. Due to her birthdate, it works out pretty well with coinciding with the school year as well.

organize artwork with a thoughtful place
…………………………….how the system works

In order for you to get the full idea, I feel like I need to back up. How do I deal with the stack of papers that comes home each day? This is what we do.
1. Unload the School Bag: When my children come home from school, their first job {after taking their shoes off} is to unload their school bags. All papers go in one pile on the kitchen counter.
organize artwork with a thoughtful place
Both children unload and stack their papers right there in front of the black file system {you can read more about that here. I retired it for summer but have brought it back for the school year}. organize artwork with a thoughtful place
2. Validate Their Work: While they are eating their lunch or snack with me in the kitchen, I go through their pile and talk about their work with them. Children love to be validated just as much as we do, so it’s a chance to oooh and ahhh over what they brought home or ask them questions about comments on their work.
3. Sort Through the Pile: Then I sort into (1) Information for me  (2) artwork/schoolwork to keep for now  (3) trash
organize artwork with a thoughtful place
So let me explain. If it’s something like a form to fill out or a book order I place it in my child’s folder in this file system that we keep on our kitchen counter. Again you can get more details of that here. Now it’s safe and sound and I can’t lose it {which I am REALLY good at doing!!!}.
organize artwork with a thoughtful place
The artwork/schoolwork that is not trash goes straight into these hanging bins that we have in our mini mudroom. I DEFINITELY DO NOT go through anything on a daily basis. It all gets lumped together and put in their individual files. When this gets full,  I take five minutes out of my day {maybe twice a month} to look through and see what should be kept. I often ask my daughter to help me decide {she is okay with tossing things}.
4. Artwork We are Keeping Goes in the Portfolio: Once I have gone through the hanging folder, whatever we decide to keep goes in the special portfolio.
organize artwork with a thoughtful place
The artwork tends to be much easier for us to go through. The schoolwork piled up more this last year and I kept one large stack. Over summer, we chose what we wanted to keep and included some of her writing samples and pieces in her portfolio from Kindergarten. Honestly, how many pages of addition do you really need to keep? We kept enough to give us an idea of what she was accomplishing that year.

organize artwork with a thoughtful place

Lastly, because each portfolio holds two years of work, I dedicate the first page as well as a page half way through the book to include a photo of her as well as her age. I write a little bit about what she enjoys drawing and doing. Nothing major whatsoever, but it is really fun to look back at the photos and see what she was making at that age.
organize artwork with a thoughtful place

organize artwork with a thoughtful place
I am caught up now and will continue her age 6-7 portfolio this coming year with first grade. My son will continue to add to his with his preschool creations. I realize I could amass roughly six or seven books each over the years, but I figure they will all fit into one box for them to take with them one day. Ughh, I can’t even imagine! So until than, we love to pull these out and thumb through them. I have even been known to snag a piece here and there from their portfolio books to hang up in the house. There is nothing like children’s artwork to bring a smile to your face. 
                                      Related Posts:    Mini Mudroom      File System for Paper Clutter     Children’s Art Gallery Wall
What about you? Please share any tips you have for organizing all of the masterpieces that come home from school!
Sharing with Jen’s Back to School Link Party with I Heart Organizing


  1. says

    I am all sorts of inspired!! This is fantastic. Seriously brilliant Courtney! Haha. Now I just need some children. 😉 haha. Filing this idea away for sure.

  2. says

    Great idea! We currently have several large totes filled with the girls things we have kept over the years (remember they are now 22 and 19). One of my projects for the year now that Katie is away at school is to finally weed them out for the final time and organize them. This is a great idea. I had originally purchased binders with top load archival sheets, but I think they will get too bulky.

  3. says

    great ideas!!! I usually collect mine up and have them spring-bound at my local office supply store! I only keep the very nice and meaningful ones though, the bigger ones are on display on Acrylic frames (from Michael's – easy to switch around)!

  4. says

    I so admire your organization Courtney. This is such a great idea. We don't have kids but I agree….children's artwork is the best. I have a wall in our hallway where I have hung several pieces that my niece and nephew have done. It always brings a smile to my face walking by.

  5. says

    This is really great, a simple, streamlined and dedicated space is awesome! I would jump all over this but I just recently started doing Project Life binders for each the kids and I am including special artwork and schoolwork in those scrapbooks. Really, it's the same idea you have implemented here with more pages. The entire reason I decided to go with Project Life was because I didn't know what to do with all this art and schoolwork that I didn't want to get rid of.

    Also, at my daughter's elementary school they send home a 1.5 inch binder at the end of the year with school work and art, which I didn't realize would happen. So far we have K and 1st Grade binders filled with special work and memories. It's special and great…but as they keep coming I'm not sure what we will do. I am going to be careful we don't end up documenting too much because as we look down the road it will get to be a lot.

    Great idea!

  6. says

    This is a great idea, I am going to pin it so that I remember to come back to it. My daughter just started Kinder this year and I was wondergin how to save her work. I love the process that you follow. Thanks for sharing

  7. says

    i love this! i've been wrecking my brain to figure how to organize my son's art work. thanks!
    and love the name riley grace….. that was exactly the name i would have picked if we had a daughter :)

  8. says

    I have chose a different route to save my daughters' work.. About once a month I clip her work on our easel (for Constance)and take pictures of the worthy ones. At the end of the year I will make a photo book (either Shutterfly or Kodak etc) and add some of her school year pictures and comments so I/we can remember her accomplishments!! I use pant hangers around the house and "show case" our favorites

  9. says

    Hey this is a great idea, I will be linking to this post in one I have coming up on my blog shortly. Your ideas and blog overall are really awesome. Its so nice coming across a site like yours and that doesn't happen all that often. Again a big well done and keep up the tremendous inspiring and original work.

  10. says

    I love this idea and have been doing something similar, although less diligently, with scrapbook albums. I have a question for you though – do you put school pix and progress reports in the portfolios also or put them somewhere else? Thanks!

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