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Your kid's papers can be works of art

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WITH THE END of the school year just ahead, you might be wondering how to organize the sea of paper that your student brings home. From art to spelling tests to math worksheets, parents tread a rising tide of school papers. As a parent and a professional organizer, I promise you won’t want or need all these papers in the future. The key is to be selective, remembering that less is more.

Display it
During the school year, create a mini museum of your child’s work — thinking beyond the box that is your refrigerator. Set up a bulletin board in the child’s room. Follow the teacher’s example in the classroom: Hang a clothesline across your child’s room (or playroom) using clothespins to hang artwork. This makes rotating artwork easy, and safer on art, since clothespins don’t damage like tape or pins can. Plus, the clothesline isn’t permanent. Frame a particularly special piece of art and give it a prominent place in your home. Even high-school kids get a boost seeing their A+ Spanish test displayed (in this case, the refrigerator is perfect).

Give it
Kids’ artwork makes a special gift for grandparents and doting relatives. Your child can personalize the piece with a brief note on the back. Framing puts the final touch on these unique gifts. You could also recycle artwork to wrap a birthday gift.

Mine it
Time to find the diamonds — the gems to keep. Save the favorite work for a “portfolio” that shows the child’s progress. I recommend involving the child in the sorting process, so that he or she feels in control of his possessions. Sorting provides a good time for reflection: “Hey, look at my handwriting in first grade.” What is kept becomes part of a memory box — part of who the child is. The child is also introduced to the idea that there are some things you hold on to and things you let go of.

“Children can become clutter-conscious at an early age so they don’t become the clutterholics of the future,” writes Karen Kingston, author of “Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui.”

Store it
Portable plastic file boxes are superb for containing your child’s papers, from artwork to class photos to report cards. They hold standard letter- or legal-size papers, have a lid and are available in black, blue or clear for about $10 at office supply and department stores. Some have a handle for portability. For artwork or projects that are too large to fit in standard files or don’t lie flat, the best container is a large plastic box with a lid, which can be stored under the bed. Mailing tubes work well for oversize pieces that would be damaged by folding. When you find that the collection of your child’s papers has outgrown the file box, it’s time to move out some old to make room for the new.

Shoot it
A picture of your child’s artwork can be worth a thousand words, particularly when you’re running out of space or meeting resistance to letting go. The photo can be saved in a photo album or scrapbook, providing a memory trigger. Be sure to photograph it close up to show the details.

June it
Even if you saved every piece of paper from school this year, take some time as school ends in June to do a paper purge. Save only the highlights, recognizing there will be more milestones ahead.

One rule: Don’t save projects that used macaroni, Cheerios or other food products; they attracts pests.