As a parent, Brooklyn mom Amanda Wiss knows her children’s art surpasses Picasso’s finest work. But how can she keep their projects from taking over her home while protecting those pieces she adores and wants to save?
Luckily, Wiss is a professional organizer adept at helping parents who are overwhelmed by clutter. The founder of Urban Clarity Professional Organizing (www.urbanclarity.net ), she has a straightforward strategy for displaying, organizing and editing your budding artists’ work. Her tips will help you enjoy your children’s art now while saving their most precious pieces for the future:
Set limits. After you decide how much art you plan to keep, whether it’s the best 12 or 24 pieces a year, schedule a time to weed the pile regularly. Plan to go through the collection every few weeks with your kids. Ask them to show you their absolute favorites and explain why. (Note to parents: you’ll be surprised that you’ve probably kept more stuff than your kids want). So put a date on your calendar now to purge.
Remember the details. If it’s worth saving, it’s worth writing your child’s name and date on the back and including the reason that you kept it. Nothing’s more frustrating than looking back in 10 years and not remembering which of your children drew the purple dinosaur and why it was so special.
Enjoy it while it’s hot! Display the pieces that are “new” in a revolving art gallery. You can put it on the fridge, on the back of your front door, on a corkboard-covered wall or anywhere it will be seen and enjoyed. Many of Wiss’s clients use string and clothespins to instantly create a gallery. Make sure you hang it at the kid’s level. When you remove a piece, think about whether it’s worth saving.
Digitize for posterity. Take digital photos so you can preserve the creation while recycling the paper–or removing the enormous volcano, complete with erupting lava, from your living room! Then you can share the photos with far-flung relatives and friends.
Reuse! If there are pieces you don’t want to keep, there are lots of neat alternatives instead of tossing it immediately. Artwork can become one-of-a-kind wrapping paper, handmade cards, scrapbook background paper, shelf liners, placemats, and place cards at a holiday dinner or invitations for a family reunion. Have a box dedicated to holding art that can be reused.
Re-gifting is good. Maybe you’re not sure about tossing your child’s 20th picture of red scraggly lines and you can’t bear to turn it into wrapping paper. What can you do? Your stash will make a great present for the grandparents, or a favorite aunt. Turn the pile into artistic scrapbooks, calendars, or just pop a stack in the mail with a note from your child. Relatives will love it!
Pick great storage. If you’re going to save pieces for the future, don’t just stash it under your couch . There are affordable options.
- As a short-term solution or for current projects, an unused pizza box is often free at your local pizza parlor.
- An oversize three-ring binder can hold your child’s collection as it grows – just hole punch the masterpieces and collect them in an attractive binder. They are easy to store, easy to flip through, and make great “containers” for art that you give to someone else.
- Acid free is best. If you know your child’s work is a keeper, consider spending a little more for containers that are acid free to protect the art. A lightweight portfolio that’s durable, acid-free and has a handle means you can easily grab it from under the bed  (see the Artmate Portfolio at Dick Blick ).
- Wiss also loves the Schoolfolio Single (http://schoolfolio.com ) when you want art to be portable. For the child who mass-produces art, she likes the larger Schoolfolio All-in-One. Both Schoolfolio products are acid free and UV resistant, which means your work will be protected from fading.
- Storage can be pretty. If you want storage that will decorate your home, consider the decorative document boxes  at See Jane Work or the stylish acid-free canvas media boxes  at West Elm.
Whatever you choose to do with your growing art collection, Wiss recommends including your kids in the decision-making process. “Making choices is one of the most important life skills we can teach, and having kids be curators of the household’s art collection is a great way for them to learn,” she says.