How to Organize Your Kids’ Precious Artwork

There are certain pieces of art that I’ll never, ever part with. I imagine myself thirty years from now, with all my possessions pretty much reduced to the essence of what I love about life, and these pictures will still be there.

The first, Hello, was brought home by my daughter from first grade.

hello frog

The frog smiles happily, his eager eyes greeting life. “Hello,” he says (she wrote) and I add, “What good things will happen today?” It seems to sum up a curious expectancy that life will somehow be alright and maybe even amazing which was hers at first grade and I hope she never quite loses.

The second, Happy Father’s Day, was made by both my kids.

father's day pictures

You can see how my daughter’s maybe four-year-old writing says something very important but pretty much unreadable, and how my son has characteristically drawn with great care something that he absolutely adores. She’s talking to the viewer, he’s talking to himself but happy to be seen doing so. This picture captures the essences of my outgoing and my introverted twosome. And the killer whale is really, really cool.

Both pictures are on my walls right now and always will be. But what you don’t see are the stacks and stacks of other artwork produced by my kids and consigned to the trash. It sounds brutal when you put it like that, but for kids, the fun is in the doing. Keeping is an strange afterthought, like trying to hold onto the fragment of a dream or keep someone a first-grader forever. As adults, we save a few representative pieces of art to remind ourselves of those days but not many of us now wish we had a whole set of albums devoted to our kindergarten through fifth grade scribbles.

So how do you handle the endless stream of artwork?

If you do decide to keep something, then frame it and hang it on your wall. If it’s stuck in a box in the basement somewhere, it might as well not be kept.

Establish the habit of putting one piece of art on the fridge a week from each kid. At the end of the week, replace it with another from that week’s output. If a kid surprises you and spontaneously wants to keep something longer than a week, you can either let it stay and be that week’s piece too, or hang it in their room for them to love there.

When you display this week’s art, last week’s goes in the trash (or the recycling if the glitter quotient isn’t too high). This applies whether it’s your son or daughter or your grandchild or the wonderful little girl who lives next door. If the child is there, they get to choose which piece to hang and then help you put the rest in the trash. Start early enough and they’ll love helping you. If you come to this later, you can talk lovingly about how much fun they must have had creating the art, how unfortunate it is you don’t have the funds to build an extension to the house to hold all their work, how you can’t wait to see what they come up with next time.

If you have grown kids who avoid dealing with their overflow by mailing your grandchildren’s artwork to you, same deal. Pick one piece to hang on the fridge, then admire the rest as you let it go.

Anything too fragile to hang on the fridge can be put on a specially designated space on the shelf. Adore it for a week and then let it go. There’ll be plenty more where that came from.

Need help sorting through your kids’ artwork? Contact Joyful Surroundings LLC for compassionate, creative, and totally nonjudgmental decluttering & organizing services.

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