Inside: Here’s an inside look at how we display, save and trash our kids’ artwork and school projects.
If you’re a parent, it can be incredibly difficult to let go of the stuff your kids make. You love your kids. You love their creativity, innovation and unique ideas.
However, you also highly value a clutter free living space. So, how do we rectify the two? How do we create a living space that accommodates both our budding artists and our need for clear counters and white space? How do we find the balance between embracing the messiness that comes with their creativity while creating a home we don’t feel like occasionally setting on fire?
They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder. But sometimes this beholder simply wants to scoop every last craft supply and project into my arms, toss it in our fire pit and just make s’mores. #s’moresoverthings
Here’s an inside look out how we display, save and trash our kids’ projects. If you’ve got a system or strategy that works for you, feel free to share it in the comments for me or another reader to grab ahold of.
When it comes to displaying and saving kids artwork, establishing firm boundaries is key. For the longest time I let me kids tape any and all artwork up in the dining room. It drove my husband crazy. I thought it looked fun while he thought it looked like mayhem. He was probably right. It didn’t take long for this space to grow out of control.
Once they started using duct tape, even I knew it had become a problem. It was time for slightly firmer boundaries that would force my kids to get a little pickier about what they hung and help our creative space look a little less chaotic. Emphasis on a little. I mean our dining table is still covered in paint and sharpie marker, but every little bit helps.
Here is what we came up with:
I went to our local thrift store and found three large frames. I tossed everything but the frame itself and used command strips to adhere them to the wall. My kids now can rotate their favorite pieces into a frame.
Exceptions to this rule: Extra large projects and holidays.
Sometimes they come home with ginormous projects such as a full tracing of their bodies or poster boards from class projects. For example, this fantastic rendering will be coming home from school with her shortly. That hair! Spot on.
We tape stuff like this up in the hallway for a little while for a bit. (Definition of “a bit:” Two days to two weeks.)
During the holidays, especially Christmas, my younger kiddos tend to come home with more artwork than usually. We turn a hallway into a winter wonderland of glitter and glue stick for a “bit” then trash it.
It’s important I note that immediately upon completing this article, my youngest spontaneously decided to make what she called a “memory wall,” adding her own memories to my little living room photo gallery:
This is why a grace-based approach to minimalism and home organization is so important to me. Just when we think we’ve found a system that works, life swoops in and ups the ante. Minimalism with kids works best when we aren’t concerned at all with looking the part. Instead, of aesthetics we focus on the long-term habits and character a home less focused on material possessions develops in our kids.
I keep a small bin in our basement for each of my kids’ favorite school projects and artwork. We sift through it together at the beginning and end of every school year, oohing and ahhing at how cute they were in preschool, and making sure to let go of the pieces that have lost their luster. What seems unbearably precious at first can fade in time.
These bins are large enough to hold a rolled-up Star Student posters.
It doesn’t get saved if….
1. It’s 3D
We may keep 3d art for a bit, but eventually we let it go. These 3d art projects take up too much real estate to store for eternity.
2. They Simply Followed Instructions
This is particularly common with little ones. If my child simply glued a bunch of pre-cut pieces paper together, 100% of the time it’s going in the trash.
If they painted thirty sunsets, they get to pick their favorite and ditch the rest.
Why I Trash Most of it…
Call me ruthless, cold hearted even, but I eventually trash most of the stuff my kids make or bring home from school. Hear me out.
When I consider whether to hold on or let go, I pause and look to the future. As a forty-year-old mother of three, I do not at all care about the random artwork I drew as a child. Sure, it’s fun and slightly mortifying to read through a small collection of cards, poems and creative stories I wrote. However, for the most part, I don’t want my own childhood projects. When I look ahead to the future, I assume the same of my kids.
Getting Kids to Let Go
Now, you may be reading this and thinking to yourself, “I have no problem letting go of their projects. It’s my kids I have to contend with. They want to keep it all!”
What I found was that getting kids to let go of their takes a change in expectations.
There was a season when I hung all of it up and held on to everything. Of course, it was difficult for them to start letting go because I had only showed them how to hold on. Begin by modeling the clutter free life for your kids. Let them observe as you eliminate the excess in your own home and then start by simply vocalizing your intention for theirs.
“Oh, this is beautiful. Wonderful job. Here let’s hang it up for a couple of days.”
In time, when they make something new, “Awesome! I love it. Here let’s let go of this one and hang up this one.”
Every now and then I get a little push back. When this happens, I’ll say something like, “Ok. We can keep it up for the rest of the day, and then we will let go of it in the morning. Remember, we can’t keep it all. The fun part is making it anyway!”
For more tips on decluttering with kids read: Messy Minimalism.
Other Strategies For Decluttering Kids Artwork:
Mail it to Family
This is a genius idea I picked up from my friend Elika. She regularly folds up her kids’ artwork, pops a stamp on it and sends it to grandma. Everybody wins this way. Especially Elika.
Take Pictures Before Getting Rid of it
Personally, I don’t do this simply because I know myself and those pictures will just get lost in a see of pictures. I’ll never do anything with them, but they will clutter up my phone. In fact, knowing I have those picture of pictures adds more stress than just letting them go does. That’s just how my brain works. I’ll feel the pressure to turn them into some kind of book or sort them into a file. I’ll do neither and just stress about it.
I believe magic of making something is in the making not the saving. There are very few pieces I’ll truly care about when they are older. I keep those, and let the rest go.
For more information on Messy Minimalism head to MessyMinimalism.com
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