The start of the school year brings mountains of art projects, school work, and homemade holiday gifts – all of which take up space as the quantities of “art” just keep coming.
When I was about thirteen years old, I remember finding a homemade ash tray in the garbage. (Apparently, I’m “we made ash trays in school” years old.) My mom tossed it, not thinking that I’d find it. I was crushed and begged her not to throw it away because I worked so hard on it. It was a treasure!
Fast forward thirty years and as a mom with four kids, I’m buried in my kids’ “treasures.” Canvases. Pottery. Paper mache. Crayon, pencil, marker drawings. Art projects are everywhere.
But we can’t keep every art project. Not everything produced by one of my kids is a treasure. Not everything can stay forever. Not everything is worth saving.
In our house, each work of art is evaluated and meets one of these three fates:
Take a photo. For drawings, the easiest thing to do is take a photo of the masterpiece. You can keep the image in a folder on your phone or save it to an app like Artkive, which “keeps” the image and sorts it by child and date. Either way, art projects are preserved. And should the need arise, you can print the art in whatever size you need and voila! instant gift for grandparents.
Organize “keeper” art projects in bins. For mixed-media, 3D, canvas, or other non-paper drawings, we keep plastic bins in the office with each child’s name. Art is regularly filed in the appropriate bin, and when the bin is full, we sort through what gets kept, what we can save via photo, and what gets tossed.
Trash. The cold, hard truth is that some art projects need to be thrown away. Kids produce a lot of art projects in school, at church, and at home. We have to be selective in what we keep and don’t. I use a very non-scientific formula for deciding:
- Is it a milestone piece? The first time your child used a crayon and there are a couple of faint scratches on a piece of paper. Fingerprint apples on a footprint tree from daycare. A piece that was displayed in an art show. These art projects are keepers.
- Does it make me laugh? Would I post it on social media? Think about the mom or dad sheets kids fill out in elementary school. The one where they guess you height, talk about what their favorite thing about you is, and draw a picture of you and them. Keep those.
- Is it something I’d hang on my wall? I decorated my home and work offices with framed kid art. Abstract, fun colors, really good drawings. Framing kids’ art projects is a quick and easy (and cheap) way to decorate. For me, it reminds me why I work so hard, and it makes the bad days a little brighter. However, if it isn’t something I’d frame, it’s gone. Now, to avoid the heartbreak I felt when I was a kid, I try to toss any art projects when the kids aren’t home or when they’re asleep. And I immediately take out the trash. Luckily, they’re still too small to see inside the trashcan.
How do you handle the onslaught of kid art projects in your house? Do you toss everything? How do you decide what to keep?