Pint-sized Picassos

KonMari kid art

Pint-sized Picassos

How to organize kids’ art

I love that my kids love creating. They work so hard on their art projects, and can’t wait to show them to me, and those proud smiles are seriously among their most endearing qualities. But … they are also very prolific artists, both at home and school. And I have a four-magnet quota on my refrigerator which needs to include the paper reminders and calendars they bring home from school. Add to this that just two of my three kids are even in school yet, so there’s really no end in sight to All. The. Paper.

Ask your kids to prioritize

To help my situation, I’ve worked with my oldest two to help them discern what’s relatively more important to them. I ask them questions like whether they worked hard on something or if they put a lot of time into it, to help them figure out what they truly want to keep. If you haven’t done that yet, I highly recommend that as a first step to dealing with a paper problem related to kids’ art. You’re doing your kids a great service by teaching them to be discerning, and that skill can also be applied to their other belongings – like the ones in the playroom!

Sometimes, kids get joy from the process of creating, and don’t care much if their creation has a long life. If I suspect that’s the case with a piece, I may wait a day or two, ask if I can recycle something, and they say, “Yes!” (And I cheer internally.)

Apply the KonMari Method

But other times, a work of art means a lot to them. Or maybe it means a lot to me! Which brings up questions like, how much kid art is the right amount to keep? Where do you put it? Ultimately, you must answer these questions for yourself, maybe in consultation with your little artists, because the answers are different for everyone. If you need help determining what to keep, the KonMari Method can help you develop and refine your decision-making abilities about this sometimes sentimental and emotion-filled question.

What to do with what you keep

After you decide what to keep, here are some tips for organizing and storing kid art:

Digitize it: Some parents use apps that let you digitize your kids’ artwork, by taking a picture, editing it, and then storing it in the app. You can even transform pictures into gifts or a book. (My favorite app of this sort is Artkive.) Caution: I recommend using this app for special pieces, not everything. While the app is easy to use, it does take time to digitize the artwork. I found that even if I only digitized artwork once a month that – like filing other paper – the piles can get pretty tall if you do all of it. Your best approach is to curate the artwork first, then digitize it.

Frame it: I also love when I see kid art formally displayed in a home because it personalizes the space and honors the people who live there, without adding clutter or mess. A friend of mine decorated her kids’ playroom simply by installing her kids’ art into some inexpensive picture frames from Michael’s.

Some apps and services help you easily convert artwork into wall art, including custom frames. I’ve been tempted lately to try Framebridge, which sends you packaging so you can mail in your art, then they frame it and mail it back to you.

Organize it: Another option is to keep a physical tote or portfolio to organize and store kids’ art. Twin Cities-based organizer Michelle Vig of Neat Little Nest offers beautiful file folder labels if you want to create your own personalized art tote.

So, what do I do? For this paper challenge, I have to resist the urge to create a complicated solution that is difficult to sustain, and instead, do my best to simplify. I know myself – I will only do something if it’s easy.

To start, I asked myself, “What is my desired outcome?” My answer: I want my kids to be able to have access to their favorite pieces and the memories associated with them, but I don’t want them to be overwhelmed by volume.

To accomplish this, I turned to some of the best advice I received when I was pregnant with my first kid. My friend suggested I create an email account for my daughter and email her letters that she could read when she is older. I did that for all my kids when they were born, and now I also use the email account to send them pictures of themselves and their art and awards. On my side, I save myself time by avoiding a complicated filing system for pictures, and if I ever wanted to review what I sent to them, I can pull up the emails and attachments any time in my “sent” folder using Google’s easy-to-use search function.