Moms Talk: Home Is Where the Art Is

No. Really. You can't keep everything.

I don’t know art, but I know what I like.  I like having a house that does not look like an episode of Hoarders.

My daughter seems to disagree.

Artwork is an ongoing issue in our home. My husband and I are not art people. We have a very sparse aesthetic. We have family pictures on the wall, of course. We have a few framed posters and some pieces that friends have given us, including several of my favorite things brought back from the world travels of one of my best friends. That's about it. The rest of the walls are white.

Yet we now have standard sheets of typing paper taped everywhere. These pages are covered with everything from pencil drawn math equations to crayon representations of our family—including the cats—to full-on watercolor masterpieces.

And they’re all treated exactly the same. They are taped up where ever my daughter thinks they “go.” By her desk or mine or her dad’s. In the kitchen. In her bathroom. All over her bedroom. And then eventually, when the parents can’t take it anymore, everything not in her bedroom is taken down, the tape folded over, and they’re put in a bin under my bed.

A bin that, at this point, is well over maximum capacity. Opening it for any reason is an exercise in crowd control because I can’t let go of her art any more easily than she can. (She came by this hoarding naturally.)

We must tame this monster before it buries us all.

Here are some of the things we’re trying. We have invested in frames. For some reason, the art makes us less crazy if it looks intentional. There are some great cheap frames made for documents that specifically hold a standard sheet of paper, and a group of these together make the walls look less crazy and more deliberate.  There are other methods—clotheslines, collages in limited areas, using clipboards.  I’m sure we’ll try many of these, but the goal is to make what’s up look like it belongs there. Less tape. More classy.

We have put her in charge of the rotation. We have limited the number of pieces that can be in certain areas, and she must choose, when putting up a new masterpiece, which one comes down. I do have some favorites that I won’t let her touch, but giving her control has actually be very helpful in seeing what she values in her own work.

We are using technology and scanning the contents of the bin. I have finally agreed that I do not need to hold on to the actual physical papers of every bit of art (and schoolwork) that she’s done. My husband is happily spending weekends with the bin and our color scanner, and recycling the art afterwards.  

The scanned art has a life of its own! I have found that putting the pictures on rotation as my computer’s desktop is wonderful. I see them a lot more often, and digital space is much easier to come by in this house. You could also load the scanned art onto a digital frame for an awesome grandparent gift. In one of my favorite uses of the digitized art, we were able to send a scanned picture to a site that makes iPhone cases and have a custom case made from one of my favorite of her family pictures. Now her art is always with me.

Finally, we have given up on certain parts of the house. Her room is her room. The area around her desk is hers. The fridge is hers. This makes is easier to assert adult aesthetic dominance in the other areas of the house.

There will always be more art. This gives me joy. But letting go of some of it makes way for more, and lets you appreciate what's there. As we teach our kids about their toys, you really can’t keep everything. At the same time, don’t go crazy purging. Some stuff must be kept, even if it has no direct “use.” Don’t end up an empty nester, wondering where those kindergarten drawings are now.

Value the special things in your life and home. Get rid of the rest, to make space for the most important to shine.

Or just give up and buy a bigger house.

Cathy Watkins February 17, 2012 at 06:02 PM
I love this article. Great creative ideas for honoring your child's artistic efforts. There's no more beautiful artwork - at any price - than that of a child. I know you can't keep everything..... but when your child is grown you'll regret what you let go more than what you kept. Scanning is an excellent solution! And remember, art projects make great gifts for grandparents.
Sheryl February 17, 2012 at 06:47 PM
lots and lots of art in here too. we did start an online photo album to store pics of her art but kept some of the sentimental ones which will go in a binder to give to her when she is older.


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