27 Photos to Take of Your Kid Before They Reach Their Tweens

Kids grow up so fast. Here are ideas for photo moments that capture the amazing journey.

Back in the day when capturing a moment meant deliberately keeping a (film!) camera at the ready, our collections of childhood photos were finite.

Holidays and special occasions got top billing. However, it’s the random candids that stand out in memory- the photos our parents snapped simply because they didn’t want to forget how we once were.

They endure in disorganized (though not bottomless) shoeboxes, and neatly arranged in gold embossed photo albums.

These days, there are few moments that pass by without someone whipping out a phone to capture it. And with the ease of snapping, comes an overwhelming volume of output.

But how many of these files are we ever going to print, let alone look at ever again? What are the chances we’ll haul out dusty hard drives and even have the ability to see what’s on them? 

It stands to reason we’d all benefit from capturing these fleeting moments more thoughtfully. Approach the photographing of childhood less like the paparazzi, and more like a documentarian.

Here are 27  shots that you (and your kids) will love to look back on.

[su_highlight background=”#f1c40f”]1. Newborn feet[/su_highlight]

infant toes wrapped in blue blanket

Listen, they’re not going to be that cute forever. (Or look even remotely as miraculous and amazing for long.)

[su_highlight background=”#f1c40f”]2. First birthday cake smash[/su_highlight]

baby with hands in birthday cake

There are few times in a person’s life when going elbows deep into a pile of frosting is going to be deemed acceptable. Make this one count.

[su_highlight background=”#f1c40f”]3. Less than Sunday best[/su_highlight]

Sure, they look fantastic when they’re all dressed up. But the true representation of childhood? They’re often a hot mess. Snap a few of the less than shiny days.

[su_highlight background=”#f1c40f”]4. First bike[/su_highlight]

little girl on bike with training wheels

This photo is as much for you as it is for them. Do you remember the sheer awesomeness of your first bike? Chances are you remember it in detail whether you have a photo of it or not. (And if you don’t, I’m sure you wish you did.)

[su_highlight background=”#f1c40f”]5. Bathtime mohawk[/su_highlight]

little girl laying in bathtub

A classic.

[su_highlight background=”#f1c40f”]6. Favorite lovey[/su_highlight]

sleeping little girl clutching mouse

There’s always going to be something they refuse to sleep/eat/leave the house without. Whether it’s for a matter of weeks, or years, looking back on the things that really mattered to them is about as nostalgic as it gets.

[su_highlight background=”#f1c40f”]7. Candid interactions with friends[/su_highlight]

two little girls hugging

There is really nothing sweeter than two small people interacting with each other. (Well, except for the times they’re clubbing each other in the head with toys or screaming about who had what first.) And what better fodder for their future #TBT posts than photographic evidence of their squad from back in the day?

[su_highlight background=”#f1c40f”]8. Bedtime reading[/su_highlight]

two kids reading bedtime stories

Bedtime is often overlooked as a time worth documenting. Likely because anything that potentially slows down the process seems like sabotage. However, a photo to recall the cozy snuggles is worth the risk.

[su_highlight background=”#f1c40f”]9. Hand holding[/su_highlight]

dad and toddler hands

Because one day you’re going to realize you can’t remember the last time they spontaneously held your hand. And you’ll be the awkward person crying on the elevator.

[su_highlight background=”#f1c40f”]10. Favorite spots[/su_highlight]

silhouette of kid on swing

That little rickety dock they fished off at the lake each summer, the rope swing at the local apple orchard, the biggest rock in the park that played everything from spaceship to castle. Think of the little places that seem so much a part of now. As time goes by, their memory weaves itself into the fabric of a childhood.

[su_highlight background=”#f1c40f”]13. Little person, big world[/su_highlight]

kid in field at a distance

It doesn’t always have to be a close up. Collect some images that convey just how big their world once seemed.

[su_highlight background=”#f1c40f”]14. Tantrum[/su_highlight]

toddler in a tutu having a tantrum

They aren’t always in top form. In fact, they’re often NOT in top form. Keep it real.

[su_highlight background=”#f1c40f”]15. Sleeping in unusual places[/su_highlight]

sleeping baby

Because napping doesn’t always happen at the most convenient times and some kids can sleep anywhere. (This could be a series that lasts a lifetime, truthfully.)

[su_highlight background=”#f1c40f”]16. That silly thing that only they do[/su_highlight]

toddler helping in the kitchen with headphones

Maybe it’s their patented scowl, or their insistence on wearing sound canceling headphones to make smoothies. Whatever it is, photograph it.

[su_highlight background=”#f1c40f”]17. Eating things. Messily.[/su_highlight]

toddler eating messy popsicle

Because they’re going to outgrow it. Hopefully.

[su_highlight background=”#f1c40f”]18. Being brave[/su_highlight]

Collect photos that empower them. Everyone likes to look back and realize they’ve always been a badass.

[su_highlight background=”#f1c40f”]19. At the beach[/su_highlight]

little girl with sand pail at the beach

Especially that first time they see the ocean. And refuse to touch the sand with their actual body. (Or insist on being up to their neck in it. Depends on the kid, I suppose.)

[su_highlight background=”#f1c40f”]20. Making a mess[/su_highlight]

kids making a mess in playroom

Lots of opportunity for this one. Legend has it, you miss these days when they’re over.

[su_highlight background=”#f1c40f”]21. Sick day[/su_highlight]

sick toddler with crackers

If someone tried to take my photo the last time I was sick, I’d have summoned every ounce of strength I didn’t know I had and roundhoused that phone right out of their inconsiderate hand. That’s because I’m an adult. However, when our kids are sick, it’s often supremely sweet.

[su_highlight background=”#f1c40f”]22. Doing their thing (cooking, art, sports)[/su_highlight]

little girl singing and playing ukulele

Sometimes, it’s easy to see from day one what a kid was simply born to do. These will come in handy when compiling the photo montage for their episode of “Behind the Music” or their their first James Beard Award Ceremony.

[su_highlight background=”#f1c40f”]23. Crying[/su_highlight]

toddler crying in snow

Because it’s not always sunshine and roses. You may have to take this in stealth mode as to not escalate the already devastating situation, but it could end up a family favorite.

[su_highlight background=”#f1c40f”]24. New trick[/su_highlight]

little girl blowing a bubble

They won’t even protest this one. In fact, they may ask you take to 400.

[su_highlight background=”#f1c40f”]25. Crazy dressed[/su_highlight]

little girl in purple tutu

Sometimes you can’t leave the house unless you’re wearing a tutu. Or a cape. Or underwear on your head.

[su_highlight background=”#f1c40f”]26. With people who are special to them[/su_highlight]


We always snag photos of the kids with the usual suspects. Grandma, Grandpa, Aunts and Uncles. But there are plenty of people who have a real impact on relatively small swaths of life. Librarians and teachers, nurses and shopkeepers. Take photos that spark memories of those we love all too briefly.

[su_highlight background=”#f1c40f”]27. Know when the scene is ripe for a posed photo.[/su_highlight]


Sometimes, it just can’t be helped. (Here are my rules: Not too busy, interesting textures, pops of color.)


Guilty of Sharenting? You’re Not Alone

Research shows how frequently new parents post to social media – and why.

New parents love social media, especially on mobile devices. They (we) use it for entertainment, to keep up with friends and family, to shop, and for research.

New parents use social media pretty much for everything. Pretty much like everyone else.

Social Media Sharenting

One difference, however, is the frequency that new parents post to social media.

A fascinating study from Ipsos MediaCT and highlighted by Adweek reveals that, compared to non-parents:

  • New moms post 2.5x more status updates.
  • New moms post 3.5x more photos.
  • New moms post 4.2x more videos.
  • And new parents use Facebook mobile 1.3x more often than non-parents.

It’s completely understandable why new parents post so many photos and videos of their babies.

The average parent will post almost 1,000 photos of their child online before he/she turns five.

Sharenting: used to describe the overuse of social media by parents to share content based on their children. “Oversharenting” or not, social media is an easy way to share with friends and family. There’s the pride and joy factor. Parents use social media to share their kids’ milestones. And then there are ALL THE LIKES.

  • New parents’ Facebook posts about babies get 37% more interactions from relatives.
  • New parents’  Facebook posts about babies get 47% more interactions from friends than their general posts.

This brings to mind “Moments That Matter – Finding the Extraordinary in the Ordinary,” an October 2015 study of consumer sharing behavior from Facebook IQ.

Their findings can be summed up as “parenthood is mobilehood.” Insights from their study:

  • Baby feeding time is mobile time.
  • New parents are active on Facebook super early in the morning, starting as early as 4am and peaking at 7am.
  • By 7am, 56% of new parents on mobile have visited Facebook for their first mobile session of the day.
  • Comparatively, 45% of non-parents have logged into Facebook by 7am.
  • According to Facebook IQ, new moms post status updates 2.6x more, share photos 2.9x more and share videos 5x more than non-moms typically post and share.
  • New moms ages 18–34 post status updates 2.6x more, share photos 3x more and share videos 5.5x more than non-moms of the same age typically post and share.

Here at Parent Co, we’re intensely interested in how parents use social media.

After all, we make Notabli, an app that allows parents to save and share their kids’ moments in private social networks of friends and family.

We’ve seen the upsides and downsides of sharing kids’ photos on social media. It’s easy and appealing in the moment (and many of us here do it.)

However, there are serious concerns to oversharing kid and baby photos on public social networks.

Still, there’s no doubt that “parenting is becoming a digitally shared experience.”

More Reading


6 Tips for Taking Better Christmas Photos With Your iPhone

With a few simple tricks, your smartphone can take holiday family photos that you’ll treasure for decades.

At last count, my iPhone contained 8,755 photos. If I ever used Siri, I assume she’d insist, speech slurred, that I whittle that down to give her room to breathe before she could provide me with any assistance whatsoever.

Sometimes I think the whole thing just might spontaneously burst into flames.

I am not a photographer. I am a mom with an iPhone. Obviously, the main subjects of my thousands of photos are my kids. A lot of them are total crap. Kids move fast, refuse to cooperate, and sometimes I just miss. But over the last several years I’ve honed my skills and the misses are fewer and far between. I’ve amassed a serious collection of images that I’m truly proud of using only my iPhone and this set of guidelines:

Be Quick!

Full disclosure: I am that mom who (provided the risk level is relatively low) snaps a photo before rescuing precariously perched toddlers. Many photo worthy moments happen in the blink of an eye. For that reason, I often open my camera from the lock screen, swiping up from the bottom right corner.

Ain’t nobody got time for passcodes when babies start hugging each other and kids dash off happily into the snow.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

Light! Make it natural.

two young kids enjoying summer at the lake with sun lit background. Watching sun down.

Good lighting is the difference between a photo that’s meh and totally stunning. The morning as light streams through windows and the last hour or so before the sun goes down are my favorite times of day to capture. Experiment with sun rays and silhouettes. Set the flash to off and keep it natural.

Don’t zoom. Move closer.

cookiethief copy

Like with your actual body. The iphone is powerful, but not enough to take photos without degrading them when using the zoom feature.  Get in close and take shots that isolate something you want to remember; a grubby little hand stealing cookies, baby toes peeking out under covers, portraits of sleeping faces.

Speaking of moving, get low.

Kids are short. Generally, anyway. Get down on their level. Capturing them while in the space they occupy strengthens the image.

Make it interesting. 

Sure, centered photos of your child smiling at the camera are great, but can become tiresome. I use the grid feature (you can enable it on the native camera by going into settings–>photos and camera then scrolling down and toggling it on) to follow the rule of thirds. Placing points of interest in the areas where the lines intersect draw the eye into the photo and make for an overall more appealing result. Shooting from unexpected angles is another way to enhance visual interest. Explore top down shots of lego building, notice reflections, or focus on wrinkly toes perched on the edge of the tub as the smiles blur in the background.


 Don’t over filter.

7 months cute baby girl lying on a bed

Filters are like the Jnco jeans of the photo world. They seemed fashionable enough then, but eventually become a foolish representation of their moment in time. Honestly, how you can hold in your hand this incredible tool that your ancestors could not even fathom, yet choose to manipulate an image until it looks like something your backed over with your car is baffling to me. I am in no way ANTI filter, but I know the photos which most closely resemble what the eye sees are the ones that will stand the test of time. When I first became an iPhone owner, I was very heavy handed with the editing. Looking back, those photos haven’t kept my interest. Go easy. Stay authentic as a rule and break it occasionally.

Then, do yourself a favor and put the best of the best in a place where they aren’t going to be lost, buried, or saved at a low resolution (I’m looking at you, Facebook and Instagram!)

Instead, Notabli makes it easy to organize and privately share all of the great Holiday (and everyday) moments. Download the free app for iOS or android and start a childhood album they’ll thank you for.

How I Made Better Rules For Posting Photos of My Kid Online

Becoming protector of our children is part of every journey into parenthood. This job is more difficult because of social media.

Part of every journey into parenthood involves becoming the protector of our children. This job has become more difficult since our parents’ time because of a little thing called social media.

Social media is awesome because we no longer need to confine our genius insights to shoeboxes. We can share our lives with hundreds or thousands of people within seconds. Hooray!

But then comes the idea of keeping ourselves – and more importantly our kids – safe on the internet.

Read: Parents on average post 973 photos of their kids to social media before their kids have turned 5; 17% admit they don’t check Facebook privacy settings

The Surprising Math Behind Who Sees Our Photos Online

I’ve always thought that I had a pretty good handle on internet safety. I keep my Facebook and Instagram profiles private and I’m extra careful on public platforms like my blog and my Twitter. My goal was basically to minimize the number of eyes on my life.

But then I began to consider this numerically. (I was a Math major in college, after all.) Let me paint a picture here for you of what I mean:

Say I share a photo on Facebook of my son in a pumpkin suit for Halloween. The photo is now visible to my 500 Facebook friends, who I know pretty well (okay, aside from a few random people I met at parties or classmates from high school to whom I no longer speak).

My cousin Jane sees the photo and, mid-audible-squeals, shares it on her own timeline, with the caption “OMG look at my cousin’s baby! Isn’t he just the sweetest?!” The photo is now visible to Jane’s 500 friends as well, who have all confirmed that my son is, indeed, the sweetest.

Now we are at 1000 viewers.

Jane and I have 57 mutual friends., but I’ve never even met the remaining 443 of her connections. So now, out of the 1000 people who can see my son in a pumpkin suit, I know only 557 of them.

Take that one step further and account for a few (I’m not going to be too paranoid here) incidentals, like people showing their friends, looking over each others’ shoulders in line at the bank, getting their phones stolen, or leaving themselves logged into their Facebooks in their crowded dorm rooms, and all of a sudden I’ve never even heard of nearly half of the people who have seen my photo. And that’s just from one family share.

But my son looks effing adorable in this fictional pumpkin suit so I’m looking at closer to two or three shares, plus a few family members tagging themselves in the photo so it appears on their timelines.

Strangers here and strangers there.

I’ve lost count.

This is when I start to panic a little bit.

My rule for internet safety has basically been to remain in control of the numbers. But obviously, when I really consider things, I know that it only takes one creepy person looking at my kid for me to feel like I want the photo I put out there back.

I want it back on my desktop; I want it back in my hands; I want it back in my shoebox.

A recent breach of my own security measures left me wanting to get serious about internet safety when it came to my kids. Because the truth was that, especially as a writer, I had always wanted to open my life up to others. I struggled a lot with sharing things on the internet because, while on the one hand I wanted to keep my personal things safe, I also really wanted to use the internet in a positive way: to make new connections and share ideas with a lot of people at once.

“It’s so unfair!” I would shout to my husband as I removed several cute baby photos from my blog posts. Hurumph.

Then I was inspired by a post made by one of the bloggers I have been following, a very cool mother/traveler/videographer named Hailey Devine. (Check it out here, if you’re interested, but be warned that it’s not for the faint of heart.)

I wanted to establish better rules for my internet life.

So I talked to my friends at Parent Co., Justin Martin, Edward Shepard, and Sara Goldstein, about what their internet rules are and how they work for them.

Justin mentioned a time a few years back when he learned that his Facebook posts were being viewed by people he wished couldn’t see them. He quickly mastered the Facebook privacy policies and was able to feel more comfortable about posting. Recently, he devised a system for social media sharing that involves using Twitter for mostly work-related things or to get news, while he sticks to Facebook for family-related posts.

That way, he focuses on the security of just one platform when it comes to his kids.

Edward admitted that, like me, he has worried about his kid-based photos, videos, and other media being viewed by people he didn’t know. He said he tries to limit posting those images to social media in general, only sharing on Facebook once or twice a month with “Friends only.” But he adds, “think of all the likes I’m missing out on!” He gets me.

Sara is a photographer and thus loves sharing her art with others. She explained to me that her standards for photography are quite high, which basically means that she posts images that are generally pleasing to the masses instead of more private or personal ones. That, in and of itself, keeps her from sharing things she will regret later. She did, however, detail an internet scare that she experienced a while back, involving a photo she posted somehow ending up on tumblr, and then on someone else’s public Instagram. Thankfully she was able to communicate with those who posted it on Instagram and convince them to take it down, but, as she explains, “it still knocked the wind out of me for a second. It was a wake-up call that anything you put on the internet can end up in the hands of anyone.”

All three of my friends at Parent Co. said that, when it came to sharing those photos and videos that were dearest to their hearts, they really had to take the matter into their own hands (quite literally). It’s no surprise that they all chose to use the program they developed, Notabli, as their main method for maintaining internet safety. The app allows you to handpick friends and family who you would like to see your photos. It acknowledges the fact that some photos and videos (and quotes, notes, and audio clips) are more cherished when shared with a close-knit group than even with one’s hefty Facebook friends list. Plus, the app has tons of storage and backup benefits, which I encourage readers to learn about here.

The folks at Parent Co. offered me many solutions to my internet woes, but there are certainly more out there yet to be explored.

Why not take a second today to consider your rules for internet safety?

What are they – or what do you think they should be? How they are working for you? Ask other parents about theirs as well and share what you learn with others.

Let’s help each other tweak our internet systems for the better,because we all have the same goal in mind: protecting our kids.

Netted: The Best Way to Find the Best Things

While it’s easy to get caught up in the multitudes of cat videos and heated debates about public parenting, the internet, via its apps, websites and services can actually provide us with tools to make life a little better.

Netted by the Webby’s (the internet’s most prestigious award) hunts down the best of all those things and delivers one every day straight to your inbox. Through their expertise we’ve discovered everything from how to print instagrams on marshmallows (this has to come in handy sometime) to the best apps for making us as productive as we seem.

Today’s recommendation happened to be Parent Co’s very own Notabli, the place to save and share all your kids’ great moments. According to Arianna Huffington of the Huffington Post, “Nobody knows the web better than the Webby’s team. If Netted says an app is killer, or a site is a must-visit, it is.”

We couldn’t agree more.

Sign up for their newsletter and soon you’ll have far more use for the internet than cat videos.

What you need to know about archiving your most important photos on Facebook

Facebook is a great place to quickly share photos, create shared albums, and tag photos of friends. However, it’s not the best place to archive your most important, treasured photos. That’s because photos posted to Facebook have limited maximum size and resolution.

Most photos uploaded to Facebook from a smartphone or digital camera will be reduced in size. Facebook photos have a maximum size of 2048 x 2048 pixels.

That’s a large image, but it’s still smaller than most smartphone photos. For example, photos from the iPhone 4s, 5, 5s, 6 and 6s  have a native 3264 x 2448 resolution.

Even iPhone 4 and iPod touch take 2592 x 1936 photos.

Meanwhile, photos from a 12 megapixel  point and shoot or DSLR camera (the one you use to capture special occasions)  are much larger than Facebook’s maximum size image.

Not only are images cropped by Facebook, they’re also heavily compressed. The maximum image size Facebook allows before compression is 100 KB.

Because of our work with Notabli, we’ve had to think a lot about how to efficiently store and organize digital photos.

It’s absolutely understandable that Facebook uses lousy image compression. With 350 million new photos uploaded each day, compression is necessary to keep Facebook’s free service up and running efficiently.

Also, Facebook doesn’t promote pristine photo archiving as a primary benefit; they’re focused on a social experience.

Notabli’s focus is helping parents save and organize their kid’s moments. Photos are by far the most popular type of moment saved to Notabli.

Kid photos are irreplaceable. They also have lastingness; they’re looked at for years, decades and even generations after they’re originally snapped. People print them. They look at them on ever higher-resolution digital screens.

Once a digital image is compressed, that’s it – the lost data is irretrievable. In most cases, that’s fine. But we decided that we simply can’t crop or compress the irreplaceable photos of kids that parents save to Notabli.

I’m not bashing Facebook. I use it every day. And I’m not simply trying to promote Notabli. There are many other ways to backup and organize digital photos without cropping them or losing resolution.

However, it’s important to remind people not to rely on Facebook for archiving their most important photos. Especially the photos they’ll want to refer to long into the future.

Owning the Moment

Today Facebook announced Scrapbook. People (namely investors) have asked us what would change if Facebook entered our space. We’ve always felt it was inevitable: with 74 million kids in the US alone, the market is simply too valuable to advertisers.

We make Notabli, a service for saving, organizing and sharing childhood moments. Notabli is part archive, part private network, designed specifically for parents and the close friends and family they invite to join.

Notabli was founded on the premise that parents have a new and unavoidable responsibility to protect and curate their kids’ digital identity until they’ve learned to manage it for themselves.

While Facebook generates revenue by monetizing user data via advertising,  Notabli will never sell advertising based on a digital identity — parent or child. Instead we plan to charge for our service. We believe in operating with a transparent value exchange.

Notabli is a social medium designed specifically for parents. We’re focused on one thing: helping parents curate their kids’ digital identity, free of advertising and intrusion.

Our 45-Second Video, 20 Years in the Making

The movie Boyhood  has earned huge buzz and won numerous awards. Shot over 12 years, it’s a coming of age story about one boy growing up from age 12 to 18 in a broken home. It’s a seamless depiction of the authentic journey of a single character, played by a single actor, growing from boyhood to manhood.

It’s a beautifully executed film. It’s also a technical accomplishment, representing a tremendous commitment of time, focus and energy.

A lucky few of us have parents that were dedicated to documenting our childhoods with such care. John Dolan is one of those parents. He’s an extremely talented photographer who captured the growth of his children over 20 years via photography and Super 8 footage.

After seeing the exceptional archive John created for his daughter, we realized that it was a stunning example of what we want all parents to  achieve for their children with Notabli.

In fact, we loved his work so much we commissioned the actual footage of his daughter and hired talented video produce  Joe Tomcho to create our first professional video.

A Beautiful Reminder

On the surface, this is a simple product video with a story and emotional hook. But it’s also asking parents to imagine having their child’s story preserved in a single private archive.

John’s experience with his kids is somewhat unique. As a professional, he had the tools to document their lives. But even now, as smartphones have made it easy for parents to snap thousands photos of their kids, it’s rare for parents to have a single, organized, private archive of these moments in one place.

We’re taking more photos and videos of our kids than any generation in history. But how are we actually preserving and organizing these memories for our children?

Like the producers of Boyhood, John had a commitment to documenting his children’s experiences over two decades.  He knew he wanted to create a record of their lives to pass down to them.

I believe that many of us will regret that we scattered our memories all over the internet on social media accounts and other sites.

We’re capturing  sights, sounds and scenes that our children will wonder about and love to return to. But where are we keeping them? Where will you turn when they ask “Can you show me what my room looked like when I was 3? “What did my first bike look like?” “What did Grandpa’s voice sound like?”

Assembling the video for Notabli was a reminder of why we’re building it in the first place. Thank you John Dolan and family for these beautiful images and inspiration.

The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up: Weeks 3-5, Paper

A real family uses the Marie Kondo method from her “The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up” for a minimalist household of items that spark joy.

Paper spreads around like snowdrifts in our home. It’s everywhere and hard to contain. We plow and shove papers to different areas of the home, but sooner or later it starts to pile up.

I’m an English teacher, so piles of papers are a regular fixture in our home. Our six-year-old brings home folders of school papers and artwork daily. She leaves trails of paper projects and scraps all over the house, making me curse the existence of scissors.

Decluttering paper was the toughest challenge we’ve had yet in our family’s home organization project using the Marie Kondo method from her bestseller Marie Kondo method from her bestseller The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up. The KonMari method is ruthless in its once-in-a-lifetime purging process, but leads to a minimalist home where your family is surrounded only by items that spark joy.

Tackling my daughter’s papers was manageable. We came up with a system two years ago to deal with her artwork and school papers. The rule of thumb is that 99% of all of her artwork and papers get recycled.

We take photographs of artwork and papers we want to remember with our iPhones and post them to Notabli, a safe app for saving and organizing your child’s moments. We created an Art Room for her in Notabli where we post these items. At the end of each year, we print out a memory book of her art.

The 1% we do keep goes into a special memory box we keep for her. Sometimes she likes to pull this out and look at former books or projects she’s made. It’s a very small box.

To be honest, we recycle and throw away 99% of her projects behind her back. She hasn’t quite figured out where all the paper goes. It’s easier than tears and hurt feelings.

We want her to feel free to get messy when creating with paper. She’ll make a mask, construct armor, cut up snowflakes, or make books with paper. Our challenge is getting her to clean up her scraps after her projects.

We’re discussing these behavior changes during problem solving time in our weekly family meetings based on Vicki Hoefle’s Parenting on Track.

My partner got off easy with this challenge. All of his papers are digital. He didn’t have to do anything for this challenge.

I was the one who shoveled and plowed for three weeks through the piles of paper and snowdrifts that plague our home.

Marie Kondo’s rule of thumb for decluttering your home from papers is to discard all papers from your home. I suggest you invest in a paper shredder if you decide to use the KonMari method.

Kondo advises holding off on sentimental papers and keepsakes like old journals or love letters for this step in the decluttering process, as they slow you down. Instead she recommends focusing on papers that bring you no joy.

Papers people hold onto that clutter up space include credit card statements, warranties, greeting cards, used checkbooks, and pay slips. Shred or recycle them all.

Only keep greeting cards that “spark joy in your heart”, says Kondo. Once you read a greeting card, you’ve gotten everything you can out of it. The same can be said for lecture materials. Kondo argues “that precisely because we hang on to such materials, we fail to put what we learn into practice.”

Kondo acknowledges everyone needs to keep some papers around. She suggests the following tips for organizing papers you keep:

  • Keep all paper strictly in one location, where they can’t drift to other rooms.
  • Organize paper by three categories: needs attention, should be saved forever (contractual documents), and should be saved for short term (others).
  • Do not further subdivide papers. Keep all papers together in same folder or container.

There should be few papers in the needs attention folder. This folder is for bills that need to be paid, permission slips that need to be signed, or forms that need to be completed. You should be looking at this folder daily with the intent to keep it as empty as possible.

Papers that need to be kept indefinitely should be placed in plastic sleeves and placed in a binder for easy access. These include items like home mortgages, birth and wedding certificates, or graduation certificates.

Papers that need to be kept for a short time get placed in one container. These might include items like warranties, filed taxes from the previous year, or notes for a course you’re taking.

This sounded like a nightmare to me since I’m a teacher, but I went all in on this challenge.

Fortunately I went 90% digital with lesson planning and collecting student work three years ago. This made it much easier to mercilessly recycle old papers for my job.

I took a lesson from my daughter’s art room on Notabli and photographed old notes from students or papers I wanted to keep for sentimental reasons. Then I tossed them out. They will get printed into one book rather than stored in files taking up space.

I’m also a writer. Sometimes I type, but other times I use paper to sketch out ideas or get feedback from others. I applied Kondo’s method by dividing my writing into three categories: assignments needing immediate attention, short term projects, and long term projects I might not revisit for months or years. This was the one place where I deviated from Kondo’s method – I couldn’t mix up my writing with other papers.

At the end of three weeks, I’d shredded seven trash bags worth of paper. I can now say that all of my papers are contained in one folder for needs immediate attention, a binder for permanent items to keep, and a binder for temporary items. All of my paper resides in the office space of our home.

It brings my partner and I much more joy to no longer have paper piles all over the home. I’m more organized and pay closer attention to papers needing immediate attention. Decluttering papers is an arduous task, but I guarantee you won’t miss those papers once they’re shredded and gone.

You can learn more about our family’s home organization project here. You can also visit earlier posts from our project to learn how to declutter books or clothes from the home.