The first fingerpaint is a wonder! Then come the crayon doodles, the stick-figure family portraits, and before you know it, your child is bringing home snowdrifts of collages, paintings, and school art projects. Dioramas! Sculptures! Papier mache! On the one hand, they’re priceless artistic expressions that capture a moment in your child’s development. On the other hand, do you really have the room to keep all this stuff from now until college? How to deal?
Repeat after us: It’s okay to cull. You’re a mom (or a dad), not a museum, says Debra Baida, a professional organizer based in San Francisco. Her tips on organizing kid art:
1. Set limits. Even if your child is only a moderately prolific young artist, you simply can’t store everything forever. Figure out in advance how much you have room to store—one folder or folio for each school year? One box for all of elementary school?—and stick to it.
2. There’s no single “right” storage solution for the piece of art. Keep it simple. Flat pieces of art can be stored in a box, folder or portfolio, while 3D pieces can stretch your storage solution muscle, but there’s no need to get caught up in the nitty-gritty of expensive acid-free archival boxes or specially designed folios for kids’ artwork. My clients have opted to use storage bins, large shoe boxes, or even a piece of poster board folded in half and taped along the sides to store their kids’ artwork. Those multi-dimensional pieces can be on long-term display or stored in a box. Use what you’ve already got on hand, or simply choose and use what’s easy and meets your aesthetics and budget.
3. Pick one spot inside your house to store artwork. A shelf in a closet (perhaps in the artist’s closet), especially the higher shelves, tend to work well because they’re out of the way but easy enough to get to when you need to add to or go through the artwork. It’s best avoid keeping kids’ artwork in a garage due to the higher probability of damage from humidity or critters.
4. Get your kids involved in curating their collections. Ask them what their favorite pieces are, and explain the constraints of filling only one folder, box, or whatever limits you’ve set. What do they want to recycle to make room for the new pieces? (It’s completely fine to use your parental veto to keep some of your favorite pieces too!) By getting them involved, you’ll help them learn the basics of organization that will serve them all their lives.
5. Repurpose the artwork. In particular, 2D pieces make great DIY wrapping paper for family and friends. Ask your child which gift to wrap in which masterpiece. Close family members might enjoy getting a piece of art, whether flat or 3D, as a gift itself, or incorporate 2D artwork into a handmade card (particularly for Mothers’, Fathers’, and Grandparents’ days).
6. Maintain a digital collection in addition to a physical one. Digital photos are easy to store without occupying precious physical space—why not take a few good photos and then recycle the original? It’ll save room in your closet as well as help build a system for documenting your child’s artistic growth over the years.
7. Set up a consistent way to evaluate new artwork. Process items as they come in, or every month or quarter. What gets kept? What gets repurposed? What gets recycled?