Confessions of a Professional Organizer: Part 2

Filed under: Uncategorized — Colleen at 4:21 pm on Monday, January 14, 2013

Three days ago, I confessed that I had a HUGE bin of clutter.  Not large.  HUGE.


Scary, huh?

It was even scarier when I opened it.

Now can you understand why I’ve been avoiding it?

The good news was that this houses all the kids’ memorabilia—there aren’t more piles squirreled away.  It was pretty full so I was forced to make sorting the memorabilia a priority because starting a second bin was not an option.   Just this one bin drained me whenever I saw it.  It just felt like a huge emotionally heavy task I had to deal with.  And I was never quite sure how I wanted to deal with it, so I just kept collecting sweet thing from the kids.

With a sick kid home Thursday and an expected stretch of time available I faced this monster.  And I’m happy to say that 3 days later.  It is done!  I’m also happy to say, that while it took me 3 days, it really only took 5-6 hours to do.  It just took me 3 days to find 6 hours in which the kids were content so I could focus on it!

So here’s what I did….

First I came up with a plan.  I loved this idea I had found from Pinterest.

With a sick kid home, I couldn’t run out a get all the recommended supplies- the pretty matching hanging files, the manilla folders, or the printable file tabs/stickers.  Instead, I made do with what I had.  I’m not a huge fan of putting manilla folders inside hanging folders.  It just gets too bulky.  (I would rather get to hang on to an extra special keepsake or 2!).  So I printed the labels using heavy photo paper and used my paper cutter to cut them down to size to use them in my file tabs.   I also skipped the pretty cover sheet for the school photos.  Maybe I’ll add that someday, but right now photos were not my concern.

Next, I did a rough sort, sorting the keepsakes by child and pitching duplicates and less meaningful memorabilia as I went.  I was happy to discover that I had actually had a great deal of the papers organized in folders and boxes by child and some by grade.  This made made sorting pretty easy.  After 30 minutes I was finished!  My 10 year old and my 8 year old each had a laundry basket full of papers.  My 5 year old and 3 year old each had a small box.

Here’s what it looked like after 30 minutes:

Using the files I created from the Pinterest link above, I filed the papers by grade.  The file tabs began with pre-K, so I made each child a label with their name and wrote the ages 0-4 so I had a place for their early drawings and early letters.  Sometimes it was hard to remember when something was made.  The kids were helpful at times and other times I just followed my gut.  Somethings may be off by a year.  (Perfectionist that I am, it was hard to guesstimate at first, but as I saw myself making progress it got easier.  My goal was to be able to find the treasures, not to have everything in chronological order!)

I kept most of my favorites…. handprints, journals, and “firsts”.   For other papers that just captured their personalities or were bulky I took pictures of them with my phone and saved them to the app, Artkive .  The app allows you to save the images to the cloud (for free) or you can purchase them in a book format.  It organizes the pictures by child and by grade.  And it’s much faster than traditional scanning.

In about 3 hours, I had filed and Artkived all the papers of 3 of my children.  It felt fantastic.  But those kids were home with me that day and nd needed my attention.  So I had to put my daughter’s papers aside.

It took a couple days, but I got back to the project today.  Today’s task was easier because I already had a plan of attack.  However, it was harder because my daughter loves to draw and to write so there was so much more to sort through.   The Justin Beiber years resulted in notebooks full of songs she wrote.  How can I part with that?  (I didn’t).

Due to some time constraints, I focused today on purging the pile, scanning the bulky items, and filing the rest.   Her files are a bit thicker, but I now can grab one at a time, review them, and scan more when I have more time.

After about 5- 6 hours of hand-on time, the contents of my huge scary bin now fit in 1 file cabinet drawer, and in a huge box of recycling.  I may purge more, but right now I have 26 years (10 + 8 + 5+ 3)  of my kids memorabilia housed in just one file drawer and my phone.  I’m content for now!

Happy Organizing!


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