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Make Space For All The Art

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I have always been an organized person and even through the crazy busy years raising three kids our house stayed relatively neat, or at least easy to clean up. Except for one thing. The kids’ art. The firehose of drawings, paintings and collages was too much for me to handle. Because I am a purger by nature a lot of it got tossed, but even so the keepers took up residence in a series of folders, boxes, and totes that I kept adding to year after year. I should also note that I was just shoving stuff into the boxes to get it out of the way, there was no order to it, so everything was all mixed together, some dated – most not.

What I needed was a system. A system unphased by the firehose. A system that accounted for intake, editing and documentation. A system to avoid a huge stack of musty boxes staring me in the face, daring me to open them.

I did not create a system in time to help myself. However, if you have a young family you can benefit from my 20-20 hindsight! Below is a full-proof system for taming the firehose (or at least aiming it properly), editing the masterpieces down and documenting them for posterity.


First order of business is the firehose; you need a place to put all of the mini-masterpieces as they enter the house. You need one folder for each kid. It doesn’t have to be fancy or big, the key is it needs to be in a handy place. You shouldn’t have to go hunting for it. Ideally its home is 

somewhere near the hub of your home; where backpacks get unloaded and home art is created. Any artwork worth keeping gets filed into the folder, unless it gets displayed.

I am a big fan of the rotating gallery, a place to easily hang art temporarily. It’s a great system for containing the art, enjoying it for a time, then letting go of it. The easiest ones to maintain are hanging cords with clips like this one from Amazon.

Whether you have a rotating gallery or not the folder is handling your intake. But depending on how prolific your kids are the folder will fill up quickly, so the system doesn’t work unless you edit.


When the folder gets full, it’s time to edit. Here’s where you involve your kiddos. Editing is a life skill. Prioritizing the best and letting go of the rest applies to almost every profession and industry so start ‘em young!

Have them choose their favorites from the folder and toss the rest. If you have any qualms about tossing just remind yourself that MORE IS COMING.

Once you’ve gone through the (first) edit, have your kid sit on the floor and surround them with the pieces they’ve chosen. Take a photo – now you’ve captured not only the art but where your kid was in their development when they created it.

Now comes the hard part. Once you’ve taken the photo, have your child pick one or two very-favorites to keep as originals. The rest go into the bin.  I know it’s hard but remember you’ve got the photo and MORE IS COMING. (One note here, the extra-large works are  especially hard to keep so you should absolutely take photos of them vs. keeping the original!)


Okay, here’s how to archive for posterity without committing to storage spaces full of musty boxes that you will NEVER go through.

  1. Physical Archive. Keep one file box per kid outfitted with folders for each school year. This is where the Very-Favorites go and at the end of their school career (or often earlier if they aren’t very artistic) you’ll have one box with everything in it.  The most important thing about the box is that you keep it somewhere that is accessible, it can’t be buried in a basement or an attic.  It needs to be easy for you to file the favorites, otherwise they won’t get filed and the system will fail. I recommend a shelf in a closet.

  2. Digital archive. It will be very easy for all of these sweet photos of your kiddos and their art work to get lost in your phone. One solution is to create an album and add them, another is the ClassKeeper app. The ClassKeeper takes the concept of kid-corralling to the next level as it does not require another physical thing to keep in your pursuit of a streamlined, dec-cluttered, simplified life.  The app is subscription-based and easy to use. Here is a list of things you could keep track of in the app that would then be available at your (and any other family members, e.g. grandparents) fingertips to enjoy anywhere, anytime:

  • Artwork (especially those large, awkward & 3D pieces)

  • First/Last Day Photos

  • Favorite/Significant clothing items

  • Emotional Support Items (blankets, stuffs, favorite toys)

  • Trophies, ribbons, medals and belts

  • Anything you were going to put in the baby book that never happened

  • Anything they said or did that was #cuteoverload

Using this app as your system for enjoying your children’s childhood long after it’s over (sniff) will relieve you of the mom-guilt for never finishing (or starting) the baby book, help you edit down to just a few things that you want to physically keep and enhance your memory in the years to come when it starts to get porous. I love this app, mostly because it makes it so easy to  visit my kids early artwork. Because it’s easy, I actually do it – which was not the case when it was all moldering away in boxes.

My kids were not nearly as prolific as many of my friends or clients’ kids and I still had so many boxes, bins and folders to root through and gather it all together. This is a challenge that every parent has. My hope is that this system will help you control the influx, keep the good stuff and be able to enjoy it in the years after your kids are done with school.

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