Pocket Scrapbooking with Project Life

Cultivate a good life and record it.



end of school year organization

Look familiar? Oh, I totally get it. The end of a school year means masses of papers, folders, books, artwork, certificates, reports, projects … and on and on and ON. The struggle is real! Do you have a method to the madness?

I do! It’s an annual tradition in our home. Here’s a re-cap of what we do each year. This just happened in our home last week. All photos shot with my iPhone 6 Plus.


Pippa was reeeeaaal helpful in our organization project, can you tell?

By the way — I’m sharing what works for us, so feel free to share what works for you in the comments so we can continue to inspire each other. It’s one of my favorite things about this community.


STEP ONE: We clear off the countertop in our home office. Make room for the madness!

STEP TWO: Unload the backpacks and make a big pile of each child’s stuff.

STEP THREE: Each kiddo picks their spot … because heaven forbid anyone invade anyone else’s organizational space.

STEP FOUR: Everyone is instructed to go through their stuff.


What to keep? What to toss?

You really need to figure out what makes sense for you and your family, but here’s what I do with all that stuff at the end of the school year in terms of encouraging my kids to go through it all. The best advice I could give YOU in this process – parent to parent – is to BEGIN WITH THE END IN MIND. I can’t emphasize this enough. If you envision your child having 27 scrapbooks when they leave home as a young adult, then by all means, keep it ALL. If you want them to have one scrapbook that summarizes the first 18 years of their life, you really shouldn’t be keeping more than just a few things from each school year. Literally.

Most of us are somewhere in the middle of that spectrum, including me, so this is what “beginning with the end in mind” means for me: I give the kids freedom. They are old enough to decide what they feel is going to be valuable to them for years to come and what can be tossed. The rule is that MOST of the stash needs to be tossed. Year after year, they are coming to understand that what ends up in their scrapbooks is a SAMPLING of their stuff. In other words, they have to keep at least a few things, but they are not allowed to keep everything. I have come to a very comfortable place in knowing what seems to be the right amount, as a lifetime documenter.

I definitely don’t recommend saving every notebook, pad of paper, syllabus, etc. But I do think it is a good idea to spread out a sampling of these at the end of each school year, to preserve that for your child. And then toss / recycle! A straight-on shot does the trick. For this picture below, I laid Claire’s things on the floor and stood on a chair to get directly above. Oh, and turn off that light in the room and for SURE turn that flash off your camera! Natural light coming in through a window is perfect.


Here’s the scene … so you know what I mean about getting on a chair (if needed) to get a straight-on shot of your child’s stash before you toss.


For all those “keeper” papers, reports, masterpieces, notes, whatever … I don’t stash them in the to-be-scrapbooked cube until I’ve jotted two things in the lower corner or back: 1) child’s name and 2) some sort of timing information (whether it be the year, the month, the grade, or their age). Trust me — It’s sooooo easy to forget. Even if I am immediately filing or scrapbooking items, you never know when something gets pulled out or separated for some reason, so labeling is always a good idea.


I know you want to light a match and start that end-of-school-year bonfire … but wait! Before you toss / recycle / burn everything – at LEAST snap a picture or two of anything that represents a story or something about your child’s stage of life or personality. Like these folders (below). They definitely went in the recycle bin … but after I took 5 seconds to snap the picture in Crew’s hands. The story? He destroyed pretty much everything in first grade. Ha! It’s amazing these folders weren’t completely in shambles. The steep angle + tapping on my screen so the edges were in focus = the picture I was hoping for.


And another example.


Yep – tossed it. But first, a quick snapshot because it holds fond memories for Claire. She doodled on this folder throughout the school year, and so did a few of her 4th grade buddies. SNAP & TOSS. The memory is preserved and this photo will go in her scrapbook. It’s a beautiful thing.

When it comes to my kids’ scrapbook stuff, we have this wall of cubes in our home office. Before you ask … the company that made them is no longer in business, but there are similar units like this at IKEA and other places. Each child has a designated cube where we store all of their “keepers” until I get around to organizing things in their respective scrapbooks. Would you believe it if I told you that I haven’t worked on the kids’ albums in probably a few years? And I call myself a scrapbooker!? YES. Absolutely. More on that in just a bit.


The way we complete this process of going through all their stuff at the end of the school year is this: Each child has tossed / recycled MOST of their stuff. They have set aside a SMALL pile of items they would like to keep for the scrapbook. I then have a 5-minute one-on-one with each child to review what they have kept. I want to be sure that there is enough, but not too much. All three of my kids did great this year! (Years of training, yo.) Then — that’s it! I add their stuff to their cube and it sits there and waits until I carve out the time to work on their albums. This completes phase one. Phase two is putting things into Project Life®. That’s when it gets FUN! New around here? Don’t yet understand what Project Life is? Catch this short & sweet video explanation.

Final thoughts for today: I mentioned that “beginning with the end in mind” is, in my opinion, such a significant way to approach scrapbooking. This has been my philosophy for many years. Let me explain what the “end goal” is for my kids’ albums: I really don’t think they want 47 scrapbooks when they leave home. I think a handful is plenty, and I have decided that if each child has about (6) 12×12 albums to represent their entire childhood, that feels pretty good.



So then we do the math. 18 years divided by 6 albums = 3 years per album. And if each album has about 60 pages, well then that’s 20 pages per year. See where I’m going with this?? Parameters!! You guys. I did not have this vision when Porter and Claire were babies so I was doing soooo many more scrapbook pages than that. No regrets. But I am so glad that I have taken a few years of setting the kids albums to the side because now I have total clarity on my (evolving) goals! It’s a scrapbooking paradigm shift and it makes me so happy. That and the fact that Project Life has made it so, so, so easy.

Back to those 6 albums (which could become 7 or 8 … and if that’s the case, so be it.): Each child has a color and I already have the 6 albums for each child (you can find an array of awesome colors here). Now when I go to catch up on the past few years, all their stuff is in ONE place (“the cube”) and everything just slips into Project Life pages. Crazy easy. In fact, I’m hardly printing any photos for their scrapbooks anymore (whaaaat?) … because of the family yearbooks! Our pictures are mainly THERE (pages created with and printed through the Project Life App). If you are not too familiar with what I’m talking about, this blog post is the one that spells everything out.

Okay — one last note: If you haven’t yet seen my Get Organized with Kids’ Stuff video… it’s loaded with information as I walk you through everything and I definitely pack in the tips! (Probably more than you’re expecting.) You just have to look past the older video style since this was 4 years ago and before I had a professional videographer on-board.  ; )


7 Responses

  1. rachel says:


    Great post-so full of inspiration! I would love to know how you temporarily organzine the photos you DO take on your phone to include in their albums (ie: the photo of Claire’s folder) so you can keep the photos organized so you can find them months/years later when you finally go to work on the school album.

    I feel like I’ve been pretty good all year at snapping photos of artwork and tossing it…but now all those photos are mixed in with everyday photos, Christmas photos, etc. So, for example, at night when you go thru your photos from the day on your phone and you find one with your kids artwork-do you put it in a special album folder on your phone? (dropbox or photos app) or do you tag them on your computer? or some other sort of awesome organization?


  2. Lynn L. says:

    Great post. Love the concept of keeping the end in mind!!

  3. Sharon says:

    What size albums are the orange and yellow ones above for Porter and Claire?

  4. Nirvana says:

    Of the “keepers”, do you actually scrap those into the album or also take a picture and toss?
    I’ve taken a picture or scanned ALL “keepers”, toss everything except for a few items that might be artwork or report cards, etc and keep those in a keepsake file bin. I only do this bc of size and to save on space. It’s nice bc they have a mini version of all the “keeper” items but then they’re in 2 spots technically.

    • Starr says:

      What are the shiny things hanging from the ceiling? The spice shop looks really fascinating and so col.rfuloWill someone really buy that bunny to eat? I would be wary of the the fish and especially the meat under the red light. The pictures are great and look like a little alleyway. They use every inch of space it seems. Mom

    • Oh Vix the coat is as amazing as I thought it would!!!! You look just amazing in it. Right I am inspired to get mine out. I so understand what it is like to rediscover some mystical treasure in the aladdin's cave that is the wardrobe.Love v

  5. Mary says:

    Love these tips!
    I actually JUST finished this end of school year review….I invested the time to do the first flip through the papers. I usually try to keep anything that has hand/footprints/lists of favorites or hand drawn pictures of self and I’m afraid the kids won’t think those are important.
    Then I hand over the pile and let my kids go through to see if there is anything else that feels important to them.
    My youngest daughter turned into a big doodler this year and had little doodles on a lot of pages that I wouldn’t normally save. I pulled all those out, cut out the doodles and I’m going to make a scrapbook page with her little doodles.
    Thanks for the idea of setting parameters on the volumes. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately and wondering if my kids are going to want 18 scrapbooks when they leave home!