Help! I’m drowning in artwork!

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Practical Ideas for Managing Kid's ArtworkLike many parents of small children, I have a love/hate relationship with the artwork coming home from school.  I love the clever uses of paper plates and hand prints.  (I mean, really — who knew so many animals could be made from hand and foot prints?)  And I love that the kids have the opportunity to get messy and creative.  However.  Like most parents, I struggle with the amount of it coming home.  Don’t get me wrong — I’m not asking for less artwork.  I’m just struggling to find a process for dealing with it.

I figured out long ago that I need to triage.  I keep the “firsts”, the kids favorites, and my favorites,  letting the macaroni covered items go out with the trash.  I’m actually pretty good about that.  (David at Unclutter has some great tips for figuring out which pieces are the keepers.)  And I have a plan for dealing with the art in the long term.  I will take pictures, store an even smaller amount of artwork in a box, and print a photo book of selected artwork…not that I’ve implemented that part yet.  When I’m ready for it, Artful Kids has great advice on how to take good pictures of your child’s artwork.  And apps like Keepy, Canvsly, Artkive, and Art My Kid Made all provide good options for storing and using digital images of your kid’s artwork.

My pain point is the in the immediate term.  When we get home, the bags go on the floor, the kids go off somewhere, and I make dinner as fast as humanly possible.  When we (ahem, I) get around to cleaning out the school bags after dinner/bedtime, I’m not up for doing an immediate triage.  I’m up for going to bed.  So, all of the paperwork from school ends up in a pile on our countertop.  The same countertop that the kids try to eat breakfast from in the morning.  The same countertop that ends up being a repository for our mail.  The same countertop that…well, you get the idea.  Monday is not so bad, but by the time Friday rolls around, the kids are lucky to find a place big enough to place their little cereal bowls.  And let’s not talk about the chaos that ensues when someone spills their milk.

And so, once a week, I manage to cull through the accumulated paperwork.  A part of it goes in the recycling bin.  Some of it sticks around, waiting for me to hang it up on the wall for a brief period of time.  Rotating the artwork is a pain because I use tape to hang it to the wall.  Tape that tears the paper, doesn’t really stick to the wall, etc.  It’s a pain.  So, I usually end up with a Valentine’s Day picture still hanging up in May (if, in fact, it is still hanging).  Some of the artwork continues to stick around in a pile, waiting for me to take it upstairs to its final resting place in a box.  Which I do. When I remember.

When it comes down to it, I have an artwork intake-and-display problem.  And here is my fix.  It involves hanging storage baskets, magnetic boards, and getting the kids to help (really, they’re old enough!).  First, I got two wire storage baskets big enough to hold a reasonable amount of paper.  (These are very similar to the baskets I got at a local home goods store.) The storage baskets are hung on the wall, at a level low enough for my kids to reach.  When we get home, their new task is to take out the papers from their bag and put the artwork and worksheets into the baskets.  Triage is not necessary at this stage; they just need to show me the art or worksheet and put it into their basket.  The baskets are a couple of inches deep; I estimate I’ll need to clean them out once or twice a month.

Art they would like to immediately show off can now be quickly hung up on two new magnetic boards.   The ones I got are from Steelmaster (from the Soho Collection — ooh-la-la!) and are AWESOME. They solve the problem of easily displaying the artwork and let me quickly swap out artwork. In addition, the magnets are so strong the artwork would stay attached through a minor windstorm.  Bonus: It’s so easy, my kids (at least the oldest one) can do it.  Two of the boards fit together perfectly over my countertop.  I used a few 3M Command strips to adhere them to the wall, making installation a breeze.  Here is what the magnetic boards look like installed:


Magnetic artwork boards
Magnetic artwork boards

There are, of course, lots of great ideas on how to display kid’s artwork.  Jean at The Artful Parent has some really clever ideas making artwork displays reusable and beautiful.  Maybe someday I’ll get around to one or two of them.  For now, I’m hoping that my intake problem is solved and art “clutter” will no longer plague my kitchen countertops.

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  1. Victoria says:

    I’m still ahead of the game if I’m unpacking the backpack before I’m packing it again for the next day! Thanks for the fabulous resources!

  2. Cori says:

    My mom bought a storage bin for both me and my brother. It all went in there. When the box was full, we had to go through it and decide what we were keeping and what could get tossed.

  3. Those magnetic boards are genius! Such a great idea. Love your action plan of dealing with all the artwork, I don’t have kids yet, but I imagine I’ll be feeling overwhelmed when I do, pinned for future reference!

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