a picture’s worth a thousand words ..

… but I’m sorry, it’s not worth a thousand boxes in my basement.

A while back, I shared our DIY hallway art gallery project, which prompted a message from a friend (Hi, Pari!) who wanted to know how we then archive all of that artwork. If you asked the kids, they’d want a shrine built for every single piece. I get it. They’ve put their little hearts into each creative piece and they’d never want to see it hit the blue bag.

Here are three cardinal rules:Β 

  1. Don’t discard any artwork during daytime hours. You will get caught.
  2. Don’t put it in the recycling bag. When you’re taking out the recycling, you will get caught.
  3. When you get caught, lie. Practice your genuine “Oh my goodness, how did that get in there?!” face. You will need it.

And I don’t mean to sound heartless. I truly love their creations. But my kids are hard-core artists. In an hour of crafting on my dining room table, I can be gifted with six or eight original works. That’s not even counting all that comes home from school.

Here five curated conditions for what stays and what goes:

  1. Have they ever made something else just like this? Is it a coloured picture ripped out of colouring book that looks more or less the same as the last 391 pictures coloured ripped from a colouring book? Buh-bye. By the same token, if it’s super cool or unique, keep it (like Sidney Crosby’s dented dryer).
  2. Does this reflect their best work? For example, did they start to do something quite creative, but quit half-way through and move onto another project? Anything unfinished gets pitched.
  3. Did your child actually create this or was it gifted to them at their after-school program and brought home in his backpack? This is important as no one has room to store other kids’ stuff.
  4. Is it 3D? Is it going to be smushed to oblivion and therefore unrecognizable the next time you look at it? I’m not saying you can’t keep anything that isn’t flat (like my epic paper-mache plant cell from Grade 9, on which I was the only one to earn 100%, but both of my parents had to help me finish it the night before, and, let’s be real, the teacher probably STILL has it in his classroom 18 years later because it was awesome), but consider the storing logistics. If there’s macaroni glued to it, that macaroni is going to fall off, guaranteed.
  5. Does it give you the feels? If your kid presents you with something that doesn’t seem so awesome, but says something that makes you want to cry when he hands it to you. Keep that.

Which leads me to a little piece of advice: date everything. Include the kids’ ages too because you may not want to do the mental math in 25 years’ time to figure out how old they were when they created such a masterpiece. And if something super sweet happened when it was created or given, take a minute to write a note on the back to remind yourself later. When we were new parents, we thought we’d remember all of those moments forever, but we’re tired and absent minded and our perfect children do 8,000 amazing things a day and then cover over half of those memories by doing 4,000 infuriating things a day. You won’t remember, so write it down.

How we store it

We have four matching totes in our basement storage room. These totes are clear on the bottom so we can easily see what’s inside and each is labeled with one of our names. These are our memory boxes. M and I don’t tend to make additions to ours, but they are basically full anyway with yearbooks, diplomas and other mementos from our academic years, cards and romantic tokens from the early stages of our relationship (did I mention we haven’t added much in recent years? ha!), photos and the odd cassette tape. That sort of thing.

The kids’ boxes are lined with their baby items — the outfit they wore on their way home from the hospital, their first favourite story books, their birth announcements and some of their earliest photos. From there, we start the pile of artwork. This is also intermingled with certificates (Congratulations on successful completion of the school bus safety course!) and some sports participation medals.

When I sort through the artwork that is hung in the hallway, the pile first goes to a purgatory-style place I like to call “the junk drawer.” It goes here because I am often too lazy to go down to the basement and open the bin and deposit said pile. When the drawer starts to jam, I’m forced to go get the bin. Another tip: bring the bin to a comfy spot like the couch because you’ll never just dump and run — you’ll open it and remember all of the goodness of the baby days and dig through that whole tub of nostalgia. Plan at least 30 minutes. Oh, and one more tip: while you’re there, if you discover anything that makes you think, “Why did I keep this?” chuck it. If you don’t know why it’s there now, you’ll never know in 25 years.

I hope this is helpful — thanks for asking, Pari! If you need me, I’ll be sniffing a onesie and reading Kisses Kisses Baby O by heart.


One thought on “a picture’s worth a thousand words ..

  1. Love this! We have a memory box for each person, too, BUT I actually don’t keep the kids’ art there. I have two accordian file folders — still unopened — in the basement, next to a heap of report cards, special school papers, art, etc. waiting to be sorted into its “new” system.


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