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To Trash or Not To Trash? Managing Kids’ Memorabilia

Child's artwork

Updated: July 2, 2023

One of the things that I struggle with on a daily/weekly/monthly basis is how much evidence of my kid’s childhood really needs to be saved? You only get one shot to collect memorabilia to immortalize your child’s early years, and the pressure is on. I don’t want to screw it up, but will I still care about their very first scribble when I am 60? If I do, how many pieces of scribble paper do I keep?

What about their first onesie, or their first soccer jersey? And what about the first time they wrote their name in all capitals? Or the first time they wrote their name with just the initial capital? Or the first time they wrote their name using cursive?

It is a very slippery road I tread here, and I don’t wish to be a future guest on Hoarders. Does anyone else deal with this incredible mental battle each time it comes to children’s items?

It feels like a nearly daily debate over whether to chuck or save the latest sub-par colouring page or sneaky little activity that has found its way home in the school envelope (Teachers- I am on to you! You don’t have the heart to throw these things out so you send them ALL home for me to deal with). As soon as I try figuring out whether it deserves saving or not, I begin to think thoughts like it is definitely not their best work but they wrote “To Mom” in the cutest printing. Or, they made if for me. How much longer will they be making me art? However, they also gave me a rather wrinkled copy of Rubble’s head yesterday… Maybe they won’t notice if I recycle this one? But what if my child’s love language is gifting, and I am just throwing away her love?

Each piece that they offer up with their beautiful smile and self-confident pride nearly breaks my heart because I can’t help but think, where the hell do I put this now? How is it even possible to deal with these items? Sorry Marie Kondo, but I’m pretty sure your “Spark Joy” theory doesn’t cut it here.

Rules to Manage Kids’ Artwork

In order to keep my sanity and deal with these type of items quickly, I’ve devised a checklist of sorts to try to streamline the process!

  1. Does this item represent a first? Ex. First coloured page, first lost tooth etc. – KEEP IT!
  2. Does this item come from their heart? Ex. Hand drawn card, portrait of you, etc.- KEEP IT!
  3. Will you feel sadness when you toss it? Ex. Any item your child has ever touched. – KEEP IT!
  4. Can your child discover that you have thrown out this item? Ex- They have already dug it out of the trash once- KEEP IT!
  5. Will “temporarily” keeping this item ease your anxiety? – KEEP IT! (temporarily)

So I think this pretty much covers it all. I need to get a long lease on a storage unit to house these items until my death, upon which it becomes the very creator’s responsibility to dispose of all items. Problem Solved!

Natalie is an educator in St. Albert, Alberta. She is the mother of three energetic little girls, and one evil cat. She is passionate about adventure travel, culture and running.

Photo credit: TMW Photography