Cary Farrell

Organizing for College 101 (read this article even if your children are babies)

by Cary Farrell
July 22, 2019

Congratulations 2015 High School Graduates!

High School Diploma ✔

College Chosen ✔

Sort through Treasures  ⫎

Prepare for Dorm Life  ⫎  


Reaching a new milestone

Your high school graduate has reached his or her next big milestone!  All of our kid’s milestones come with mixed emotions.  We are so happy and proud of them yet so sad to know that they are outgrowing their need for us.  Fear can also grip us as we wonder if we have done everything we can to prepare them for their next big step.


 I just handed my last child her diploma, signifying her completion of high school and her readiness to leave the safety of our home and to continue her education elsewhere.  We are so very proud of her and the young woman she has become, but we are definitely sad to see our last baby go off to college.


As exciting as it is for the next big step whether it be college, career, or a gap year, I hope you will take some time to pause with your graduates and look back over their lives so far.  As busy as they are, there will never be a less busy time for them to dig through the treasures of the past and let go of the “dirt” that has accumulated over the last 18 years.  This can be a very sweet time to reminisce with your graduate and to send him or her off lighter and less burdened, better prepared for the next adventure.


Looking Back -- Going through treasures of the past

In this article I want to give your graduate three important keys to consider while he or she is “looking back” through the treasures of the past and in a couple of weeks,  Your graduate has spent the last 13 or so years (depending if he or she attended preschool) doodling, writing and creating projects for school assignments and winning trophies, ribbons and awards.  If you have been a sentimental parent, you have kept it ALL for them.  You did it out of love because you were so proud of them but when they realize how much there is, they are likely going to feel over-loved!


As tempting as it is, don’t just box up all those items and throw them into the attic thinking that one day when they are on their own your children are going to eagerly long for all those boxes.  Trust me!  I am in a lot of homes and I have yet to hear anyone excited over the piles of boxes their parents bring them that have been rotting away in the attic for the last 5-40 years!


Three Key Points when “looking back” through your graduate’s treasures

1. Remember the original purpose of their papers, projects, and awards

What your child has created over the last 13 years has helped to teach, train and shape who they have become.  It is now a part of the fiber of their being and they really don’t need them all to remember what they learned.  I try to remind parents that their kid’s projects and awards are about the learning process, not the end product.  Doing projects teaches them how to manage, create, and present so that they are prepared in their career one day.

2. Let your child decide   

These are your child’s papers, art projects, and awards so they should be the one to decide what they want to keep.  They should also be held accountable to keep their treasures well so that one day they will still be in good condition to enjoy.

3. Consider your own treasures

How many of you parents have a room or designated space where you display your own childhood creations and awards?  Are they really blessing you from the attic or basement and every time you move?


Blessing your graduate, not burdening them

So what do you do with all of it?


Set aside a few hours at a time and begin helping your graduate to pull it all out.  Have them dig for their prize possessions: the awards, projects, papers, etc. that mean the most to them that they want to pull out in 20 years to enjoy.  Help them recycle what you can and then give them an appropriate sized container to store their prized possessions in.  If you need to get into the mood, watch the movie Toy Story III.  The main human character, Andy, decides it would be better to share his treasures with someone who can enjoy them now than for them to rot in the attic.  (Warning:  Before you watch the movie, get your tissues ready.)


I have a client who is very proud of her daughter who was an Olympic swimmer.  There are about 10-15 large boxes in her attic with every ribbon, trophy, picture and newspaper clipping of her swimming career.  They didn’t take the time to pause and purge when her daughter graduated and now that daughter has two children of her own and a busy career.  There is no time now to look at it all nor will there be because she will be busy collecting her own children’s awards and trophies.  If they had taken the time to pause and dig for a few treasures before she ran off to college, she might have a small container that she could enjoy looking through.  My client now feels burdened to look through it all because she doesn’t know what her daughter wants.  The daughter is overwhelmed and feels an obligation to go through it all but has no time to do it.  The purpose of the memorabilia to bless her has now become a BURDEN to deal with.  


Make a plan to BLESS your graduate and take some time to help them dig for their treasures, containerize them and let go of the “dirt” that they are really not going to want to sort through later.  I helped my daughter with her treasures last week.  


Looking Forward -- Preparing for college dorm life

After you’ve “looked back” and gone through all their treasures to date, “look forward” and help your graduate plan for the next big step in their life.