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Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Focusing on the journey

This past week, I finally tackled a project I've been neglecting for years--getting a handle on the girls' school work. Bag after bag, box after box had been piling up as I struggled to find the best method to treasure all the artwork and school papers that the girls constantly produce. I had considered countless methods, including scanning or photographing each piece, but every idea seemed overwhelming because I had waited so long (my oldest just started 4th grade). I had a mountain to tackle.

Then early this summer, a neighbor mentioned a schoolwork portfolio she had purchased for her 1st grade twins that helped her quickly file away the twins kindergarten papers. The ease and simplicity of the portfolio excited me, so I immediately ran to the store to buy two of my own. But then the empty portfolios sat all summer. The purchase price hadn't included the time necessary to sift through the mountains of paper. Or instructions on how to cram the mountains into a folder.

But this past week, with the girls starting a new school year, the time seemed right. I was going to dive into this long, neglected project. I collected boxes of school work from the garage and closets, and I spent the day sorting through the piles. I thumbed through old stories and artwork. Stumbled across cherished certificates and photos. I kept a good representation of work from each year and threw away/recycled the rest. I had first worried about the emotions that could come from throwing their artwork away (because I had been keeping just about everything), but I actually navigated the emotional minefield quite peacefully.

I reminded myself of several things. I was doing this for our family. When any of us feel like taking a walk down memory lane, a smallish, fairly organized portfolio will be better enjoyed than a room full of disheveled boxes (at this rate, a room was going to be necessary soon). When they grow up and want to look back, they're not going to want stacks of boxes to go through. But more importantly I reminded myself that the art work and the school work is often more about the process and not the final product (much like life being a journey, not a destination). A lot of these projects had served their purpose as the girls grew, explored, and created. The girls had learned their lessons and it wasn't necessary to hang onto every piece created. In the end, I probably still kept more than necessary, but it was a liberating start. The girls' portfolios are bursting with memories, our garbage can/recycle bin is full, and I'm one step closer to the clutter-free life I yearn for.

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