Artwork Taking Over Your Life?

Ok maybe not your life…but is your child’s art and school work taking over your kitchen counter?  Let’s talk about some ideas for what we can do to remedy that situation.

First of all, you love your children and you love that they created something.  That is normal and good and healthy.  What is not healthy is feeling the need to keep every single little scrap of paper that they scribble on for fear that if you trash it you will erase all memory of them at that age.   What we would like is for you to keep a manageable collection from their life of things they have created and written that you can actually look through and enjoy for years to come.

Let’s talk about what doesn’t work.  It doesn’t work to keep a pile of it on your kitchen counter.   It doesn’t work to keep stashing it under your car seat.  It doesn’t work to have it in a stack and then have to toss it in a laundry basket before company comes over and then said laundry basket remains in your closet for the next 6 months.

gallery wall in my hall of my children’s art work

I have decided that I would like to enjoy their art work.  We have a long hallway in our home that connects the living spaces to the bedrooms.  I have framed a few of my kids works and hung them in different but matching photo frames on this wall.  It’s the Moon Art Gallery.  My kids love it, friends love to see the things my kids have painted or drawn and I love the little burst of color it adds to my home.  It’s easy to do…nothing was custom framed…though you could do that.  I just picked a few of my favorites.

bulletin board in my son’s room

My kids also have some of their art in their rooms on bulletin boards that they have in each of their rooms.  They like to change this out frequently.  How special would your kids feel if they came home to find a framed piece of their work on your wall?

paintings my daughter did 4 years ago that we’re still using

When my oldest was in prek she painted a picture EVERY SINGLE DAY.  One of those huge easel works of art.  Her teacher had paint with glitter mixed in and Savannah just COULD NOT RESIST the glitter.  The first 30 were so awesome and then after that they just all looked pretty much the same.  Beautiful but really…do I need to keep 150 paintings? NO!  So what I decided to do with many of those is put them in my gift wrap closet.  They are the perfect size to wrap a book (which I give often as children’s gifts) and they looks so beautiful and fancy.  She is now 8 years old and we STILL have a stack of them.

bin under my son’s bed for special papers and keepsake things

Each of my children have two bins under their beds.  The first bin is momentos…baby shoes, a baby outfit or two, their birth announcements, the 50 states quarters their grandmother collected for them, etc.  Most of the things are things that I have chosen to keep for them but as they get older they choose some things to add themselves.  The second bin has their school work…art work, writings, collections that their teachers put together at the end of the year, things they draw around the house.  I realize that one bin will not hold all of this forever but as they get older they don’t have quite as many scribbles and such and their work is more compact.  It even works well for things that aren’t flat.  I don’t keep too many three dimensional things my children make.  I photograph them and then let the photos live on instead of the 3 dimensional dinosaur.

So what do you do with the continual flow of work that is coming into your home?  My recommendation is to make a permanent temporary home.  Let me explain.  Have a spot that you can put it in when you first come into your home.   This is how you conquer the battle of having enough time to tackle sorting and dealing with the papers.  If you have a place it can stack up and then you have only a few times a year that you have to address it…to me that makes it so much easier!

I recently recommended to a client that she use the three drawers in an empty secretary cabinet to sort her three daughter’s work.   Another client of mine has two drawers set up in an art cabinet in her basement…where they enter their home…so she can sort and drop as soon as she comes in before it makes it up into the house.   This solution has multiple benefits.  One, the artwork is naturally in chronological order (if you’re into that things)..oldest will be on the bottom.  Two,  it’s sorted for kids…in case your children’s art work starts to look similar.  Three, she has one spot to go to when she’s ready to move the art to ‘storage’.  This last client and I decided that she would periodically (about 3 times a year) purge the pile down, get rid of things that aren’t her favorites and duplicates and then move them to her more permanent art/school work storage bins.  I have a bin right when you walk in the door where I pull papers out of the backpacks and put them (that third bin down next to the bulletin board) and then when it’s full I file things in the underbed storage area.

You certainly don’t have to be this detailed…but I do think you need to dedicate a place for the stuff to go when it comes into your home.  This is key to keeping it from getting damaged and from toppling from a pile into your spaghetti while you’re making dinner.

So…a few parting words.  1-Don’t feel obligated to keep everything.  2-Don’t have an expectation that you’ll deal with every paper every day. 3-Do dedicate some space for the collection both temporary and permanent.  4-Do treat yourself to your favorite beverage on whatever day you choose to sort the papers.  Be kind to your mama (or papa) self!


  1. Elizabeth Thompson

    Julie, this is fantastic! So helpful and practical and realistic. I love the pictures, they help me envision strategies that work! Thanks so much.

    • I am such a visual learner…so I’m always happy to show you what I do or how things work. I’m glad you can appreciate my amateur iPhone photography skills. Thank you Instagram!