What if I don’t have the art storage capabilities of the Museum of Fine Art?

The youngest artists in our families are the most prolific.  Their creative genius brings pride but it also creates a storage problem.  How do we determine what to keep and once we have, how do we store all of that amazing work?

What should I keep?

I have a multi-step system for determining what to keep. 

1.        Everything that comes in the door gets lavished with praise and then displayed on a counter, visible to my kids (3 and 5 year old boys) for a couple of days. 

2.       When it is time to clear off the kitchen counter, those items that didn’t seem important to them, didn’t have an accompanying story or are what my oldest calls “scribble scrabble,” get recycled at the bottom of the bin (so they don’t know it has left the house). 

3.       The remaining items get hung in our playroom or placed in a Memory Box for current artwork. (one box per child).

4.       Each time the box gets full, I sit down with each child and explain that I want him to choose his favorite artwork that we will keep forever and ever.  He chooses his favorites and sometimes I add one or two that are mine.  Each time we go through the box, we go through all of them.  Kids LOVE to have their artwork admired over and over.  Sometimes they change their mind about what is important to keep.  If you child has trouble letting go of anything, remind that that we only have room for what can fit in the box for the whole year so we want to pick the most important pieces. (Remind yourself the same when you want to keep the ones they want to throw out!)

5.       At the end of the year, we make final choices for long term storage that will be put away and labeled with his grade. 

I love this system for my kids because it makes them part of the decision making and teaches them that it is important to choose those things that are most important and find good storage solutions for them.  Remember, organization is not a talent, it is a skill that must be taught and it is never too early to teach your kids.

How do I keep it long term?

I have developed a couple of systems that may work for you and your family depending on how crafty you like to be, how much time you have and how much storage space you have in your home.

1.       Box it up:  Purchase a “Memory Box” for each child for each school year.  The box should be at least 14” wide x 24” long by 10” high.  This oversized box will house those oddly shaped creations that don’t always lay flat or fit in a folder.  The height of the box you choose depends on how much of their artwork you want to keep.  Once you have gone through the filtering process above, you just label that box, put it away and buy a new one for the current year.

2.       Create a scrapbook:  I purchased 12” x 12” scrapbooks with transparent protector sleeves.  I put two pieces of artwork in each sleeve unless they were very small (included more) or had two sides.  I had my kids pick out the scrapbook cover they liked and help me put in the artwork.  For those pieces that were too tall for the book, I let them stick out the top.  For those that were two wide, I three hole punched the art and had it stick out the side.  I chose to fold those so the scrapbook didn’t become too bulky.  It will decrease the sale value of the work when my sons become very famous but I am taking that risk for storage convenience.

If you are very crafty, you can decorate the pages, label them or let your kids do that.  I am a working mom with two busy toddlers so I let the art speak for itself!

Books and Boxes can be stored in each child’s room closet or playroom.  It can be placed on any bookshelf in the house or in your long term storage.

Enjoy the freedom from clutter created by getting all of that artwork off every surface of the house and know that your kids will appreciate how much care you put into their treasures.  We won’t tell them that it doesn’t take as much effort as it seems if you have an organized system!