Dear Kathi,

I have three children, ages 17 through 26 years. I have school papers, craft projects, tests, newspaper articles, etc. that I’ve kept for over 20 years. They are in storage boxes (not secure, tight boxes though) in the attic. What’s the solution to all this stuff? Laminated top -loading sheet protectors in binders?


Sherree, Lake Hodges


The solution will be based on your ultimate goal, on the reason you kept these items in the attic for so many years. Did you want your children to have keepsakes of their own? Was it simply your motherly duty, or did you keep them as a reminder of your, and their, younger years?

Regardless of the original reason, I would suggest that you pull everything out of the attic and sort by separating each child’s papers.

If you kept them for yourself and now wish to create a memory book for your own satisfaction, divide out the keepsakes you want to incorporate into a book or books. Even if these are for you for now, you might want to create a separate book for each child so that you could pass it on to that child later on. Make sure each book includes a section with a few photos of their siblings.

Laminated top-loading sheet protectors will probably only work for half of the archived papers, as many art projects are larger than the 8.5 x 11-inch format. Large format (11×17) scrapbooks are more fun. You have room for much more creativity on a large canvas.

If you saved these papers for your kids and don’t wish to make scrapbooks, separate each child’s items and place them into individually labeled plastic bins with snap on lids. Plastic bins will preserve the papers for a longer period of time than cardboard boxes. Cardboard is never a long-term archiving solution because insects are attracted to the glue used in the manufacturing process.

Trophies can be dismantled by peeling off the etched plaque, which can be stored in a book or framed with a photo. I have witnessed too many broken and armless trophies to realize that storing them for years is not the answer. Trophies are bulky and not worth their storage space. A better strategy would be to photograph your child holding the trophy while wearing the uniform. Peel the plaque and affix it to the photo in an album.

For readers with school age children, I recommend buying each child an under-the-bed box. Store a box under each child’s bed. Throughout the year, add papers and memories. Every summer, go through the box with your child and decide what they wish to keep and what they want to discard. Make sure to conduct the box evaluation with your child. It is a valuable life lesson for them to learn about memories and possessions.

By the end of their school years, they will have one box of their best childhood memories and not a lot of luggage from the past to tie them down as they forge ahead living their lives in the present moment.

If you are worried that your child will discard the art that is really precious to you, start your own archive box with the truly special pieces. Limit yourself to one under-the-bed box for all children combined! Remember that memories are made from special moments in time, not necessarily from tangible possessions. No one can take a memory from you, nor is a memory contingent on saving a specific item.

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San Diego Professional Organizer