If you have children of any age in your life I can only assume the answer is a big old Y-E-S!!! With little ones at home, the artwork comes in daily! Even if you have adult children, chances are you still have a backlog of their artwork tucked away somewhere. Our little ones (& big ones too) are such prolific artists that it’s hard to keep up and honor all that they create. So what is a parent to do?
Well, I thought I had it all figured out for a while. The artwork would appear usually being held by small hands with a very proud smile. I would eagerly grab my painters tape and display the artwork proudly for all who entered my home to see it. After some time, the piece would eventually get recycled or tossed and rarely saved chronologically in a storage bin in my basement labeled “Artwork”. Then I had my second child. Before I knew it my second child was also creating artwork and my first seemed to start creating artwork as if it were an Olympic sport! I thought, “Okay, I’m a Professional Organizer. I got this!” It was time to re-evaluate.
I was finding that it was becoming more difficult to recycle/toss their artwork. It was getting more personalized and there was just so much of it! The artwork represented so many things to me that I was finding it difficult to let go of yet I knew I simply did not have space or the true desire to keep it all. It represents moments in time which I know I’ll never get back but I want to remember. I want to remember the backward letters as she learned to write her name. I want to remember the first family portrait with appropriately colored eyes. And even though I feel as if I will never forget the phase where she only drew rainbows, what if I do? I want to look back at these moments in time and share them with her when she’s older. Laugh and smile about them all over again.
So I decided to look for another solution. We are all very wrapped up in technology these days, so surely there had to be a tech savvy way to solve my problem. Something to help me get rid of the physical stuff (most of it anyway) and still keep the memories. What I found was a LOT of companies out there with fabulous Apps to help you capture your child’s artwork easily and share them with loved ones. I researched a bunch. In the end, however, I decided these were not for me. At least not right now. Instead, this is what I decided to do….
Here are my Simple Ways to Manage Kids’ Artwork
Step 1: Create a spot to collect all incoming artwork.
It could be a basket in your mudroom, a drawer in your entryway cabinet, a shelf in your office. Just choose a spot that’s convenient for the incoming art and make a habit of putting all artwork (that does not get immediately displayed) there.
Step 2: Create a designated area for displaying special artwork.
This is the fun part. There are so many ways to display your child’s artwork! From these at Ikea: http://www.ikea.com/us/en/catalog/products/60075295/ or if you have a healthier budget these are great for framing the artwork: http://www.dynamicframes.com/store/c/159-Kids-Art-Frame.aspx. I have also attached clipboards to the wall to easily clip the artwork as it comes in. And still my personal favorite due to ease of use, good old painters tape! You can spend countless hours combing Pinterest for ideas here. Remember, it does not need to be fancy but you do want it to be easy to implement and in a spot that is visible for your family to enjoy. When you are ready to take the artwork down to make room for new items, the artwork goes to your collection area.
Step 3: Address the artwork pile as often as you can.
Whether it’s weekly, monthly or seasonally, bring all of the artwork out from your collection spot and address it. I divide it up by child first and then sort it into these two categories:
Recycle/Toss – these are the pieces that were fun for them to create but not the real special pieces
Digitally Capture – these are the family favorites that really connected with your child and with your family. Once captured, you will then do one of the following:
When it comes to digitally capturing the artwork, you can do one of a few things. You can send it out to be professionally scanned. If you choose this method I recommend you do this in batches once or twice a year. You can also scan the images yourself if you have the capabilities. Or my personal preference, you can snap a photo on your phone. This option works for me because I don’t need perfection when capturing the artwork. I just want it documented and done quickly and inexpensively. If you choose this method, it’s important that you choose a spot that has some nice natural light and a clean background for your images. Also, try to get a photo from right above the artwork without creating any shadows. With a little practice, it goes quickly in no time. I take pictures on my hardwood floor near a window and it works well.
Step 4: Store your “keeps”
So now you have whittled down the artwork to a manageable amount into two categories.
Artwork to Physically Store
Artwork to Digitally Store
To physically store the artwork, I still like using storage bins in the basement labeled “Suzie’s Artwork”. Within the bin, I divide the artwork by age (if very young) and by school year as they get older. Each age/grade gets bundled together with some string or ribbon and tied in a bow (for easy access). I slide a piece of paper with “Suzie’s Artwork 1st Grade” written boldly on it and keep it on top just under the bow. Voila, the physical artwork is now organized.
To digitally store the artwork, I treat it like all my other photos on my computer. Within my photo hub of “Maiocco Family Photos” which is then broken down by year and month (I’ll be posting about photo organizing soon so be on the lookout for that!), I created a folder labeled Kids Artwork. My folder structure looks like this:
Smith Family Photos
>1 – Suzie Artwork 2 Years Old
>2 – Suzie Artwork 3 Years Old
>3 – Suzie Artwork Pre-K 4
>4 – Suzie Artwork Kindergarten
The beauty of this system is that when I back up my photos, the artwork photos are also automatically backed up. The folder structure also makes batch renaming a breeze. And most importantly, it’s super easy to find any artwork if we want to take a walk down memory lane.
When it comes to saving your children’s artwork, the most important thing I would recommend would be to commit to a plan and stick with it. Your future self will thank you!
Do you have a fun way to display or store your children’s artwork? Leave me a comment below, I’d love to hear about it!
*********UPDATE January 2019********* I no longer store the digital copies of my kids artwork in folder structures as noted above. If I were still using a PC, I probably would but now I use a mac and prefer using albums in the Photos app instead. I will blog about this again soon. xxxEmily