| The Infinite Tide of Arts and Crafts

The Infinite Tide of Arts and Crafts

“It’s beautiful! What an artist you are!”

Every time your child hands you their latest pinch pot or finger painting, do you feel a thrill of joy? Your baby is evolving and creating! But does that thrill then turn icy cold in the pit of your stomach, like an undigested snowball? Because suddenly you’re thinking,

And where am I to put THIS one? At the top of the existing precarious mountain of  bring-home’s?

Well wanna know what? You do not have to take out a second mortgage for another house to stash all of your child’s masterpieces, because You have, and have always had, permission to release some or most of it.

With every excuse to hold on to too much, there is often an underlying fear or insecurity. When it comes to children’s art and schoolwork, the most common one is I am a bad parent if I throw this away.

I get it. I get a little somber when it comes time to recycle little Petri’s report cards from Woof’s Play and Stay. But I don’t need the extra bulk of paper in my car, and I don’t need the cards to remind me of what a sweet little creature he is.


I mean come on. Just look at that face. And don’t even get me started on the ears.

And you don’t need every single item that your child brings home to remind you of how creative they are. Or maybe you are holding onto the bulk of it because your care givers didn’t save anything of yours, and it made you feel sad and disempowered. That can be crushing, and quite a few of the people I work with feel your pain. Just be aware that compensating for this can lead to household headaches, and you don’t deserve that. (Hugs.)

Okay so pairing down the school projects, graded tests, completed home work and artwork can be daunting. After more than six years of helping my clients pick and choose, here is my suggested criteria of what to Keep vs. Recycle.

Keep it…

  • If it’s a true expression of themselves. You should be holding it in your hands and grinning like a fool and saying, “this is just so THEM!”
  • If it embodies something that makes them stand out.
  • If it makes you laugh.
  • Anything wildly inappropriate, or something that they got in trouble for. Real life story: my client and I found a tee-shirt that her daughter had designed at summer camp, using puff paints. It was supposed to be a rocket ship, but did bore a startling resemblance to male anatomy. We laughed and laughed. My client decided to keep it to show her daughter when she is old enough. I personally think that this is a great item to keep.

Ellen DeGeneres has a great slideshow on her website for more examples of children’s drawings and writing that is worthy of keeping.

Par example, check out this little gem from middle school, and the image I used to illustrate Newton’s second law of motion. My 8th grade science teacher was NOT amused.

Newton's 2nd Law

Recycle it…

  • If it was an obligatory and joyless assignment.
  • If it was an assignments that every child has to do. Tracing letters, spelling tests, math problems…
  • Multiple choice  and fill-in-the-blank tests. Do these fairly reflect your child’s spectrum of brilliance?
  • Assignments that caused tears or fights at home.
  • Assignments with too much structure. What is a truer expression of your child? Unstructured crafting, or if they colored inside pre-existing lines in a coloring book?
  • Just because it got a good grade. Be wary of giving grades too much weight- there are plenty of other factors that indicate that a child is an amazing human being. School isn’t everyone’s “thing”.
  • a 3D project that got broken or smushed. Throwing out a project that your child worked so hard on is not a waste. Your child got what they needed from that project when they were researching and putting it together. It served its purpose and now it’s okay to release it.
Screen Shot 2016-05-11 at 7.42.55 AM

Glad my mom kept this one from 8th grade.

Final tidbits of wisdom…

  1. If it is a poster or a diorama or something that will not go quietly into a portfolio or bin, take a picture of it. Now you can let it go.
  2. *A Simplicana Original Tip*: If it is an interactive assignment, like a science project, take a video of your child doing a demonstration of how it works. Now you can recycle it.
  3. Consider sending the best artwork to a company like PlumPrint. They make gorgeous coffee table art books of all the masterpieces. Check out the sample galleries.

One day when your child ventures into their portfolio, or bin, it can be a delightful experience. With every superfluous item that gets purged, every item that makes the cut suddenly shines a little bit brighter.

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