Deciding Whether to Save School Papers and Projects

You created a masterpiece. You did the research, took the time to plan it out, gathered the supplies to make it great, and went to work on your school project. Your teacher was impressed. He gave you a good grade and a whole lot of praise. Now, though, you're faced with a dilemma.

The trouble with putting together something you're really proud of is that you may feel compelled to keep it. (Your parents might even have a whole stack of your crowning achievements, dating back to your first crayon scrawls.) Your personal legacy of graded papers, original artwork, interesting assignments, and jam-packed binders can take up hefty amounts of space. What to do with all that academic stash, anyway?

Some of the decision-making about how much of your school stuff to keep has been out of your hands since pre-kindergarten. After all, your earliest works were featured regularly right there on the refrigerator. They were precious, you know. Next stop: a desk, drawer, box, or closet corner where they still reside. Nowadays, you have a voice in what stays and what goes. Here are some tips to help you help your parents decide how many mementos to store:

  • Come up with a purge plan. Instead of watching your locker or book bag swell with clutter, take time to sort through completed work. Share graded assignments with your parents, then invite them to hand papers back for your disposal. (You'll gain points for tidiness and courtesy.)
  • If Mom or Dad wants to hang on to some of your schoolwork (and they probably will), suggest that they invest in a container with a lid or a binder for year-to-year organization. Date everything on the back of the piece itself. Limit your keepsakes by asking yourself how much they matter to you: Did you work extra hard on the project? Did you learn a lot from the assignment? Does it make you proud or happy when you look at it? Does it show just how far you've come in a particular subject?
  • Consider taking a picture of your project and keeping the photographic record, rather than shelving the entire item. Some complex or larger scale works just don't lend themselves to stowing away. Pictures and captions can give you all the fuel you need for a trip down memory lane later (like when your parents want to show your prospective spouse the genius behind your ninth-grade science fair winner on water electrolysis).
  • You can always do a good deed by sharing your artistic expression. Rather than pack up a favorite drawing or poem, why not put a frame around it and give it as a gift? A family member or good friend will honor and appreciate the gesture, and your work may go on display to delight others. Of course, you could choose to keep a piece out for your own enjoyment, using something as simple as a magnetic or cork board to feature your handiwork.

Before you get caught up in a paperwork blizzard, give thought to getting organized and trimming down your school-year souvenirs. You can make a load of memories without holding on to every shred of evidence that you've "been there, done that."