Happy fall! The autumn is the season to harvest what you’ve planted. Or in the case of kid’s artwork, it’s the time to collect everything that has been made over the summer (or throughout the previous school year(s)) so that you can make space for new artwork to be created. For many parents, this can be a totally overwhelming chore. If your kids are prolific artists, your walls, shelves, and surfaces are probably populated with masterpieces. At some point, your home will reach a point of saturation. At that point, art making will no longer be fun. Your kids may be feeling the saturation burn-out, or they may be sensing your feelings of overwhelm. They may reach of a clean sheet of paper, only to realize that all the “clean paper” is mixed in with paper that’s been drawn on. They can’t find their supplies, paint is dried up, markers have lost caps, and there are googly eyes everywhere. What to do?? In this post, I’ll talk about storing art supplies, creating a usable work area, exhibiting artwork, and most what to do with all the artwork that’s accumulated. I have both undergraduate and graduate degrees in art, so I know a thing or two about art supplies and proliferating artwork.
- Clear off a table that you can use for your staging area so that you can sort all the supplies and artwork. Use this table to collect all supplies. Pair together like items: put all the paint together, paintbrushes together, crayons together, markers together… you get the drill. Use whatever containers you have to temporarily separate the materials. Once you’ve separated everything, you’ll be able to see exactly what sizes of bins to purchase to house all the supplies.
- Do you have a place to put all the art supplies? Depending on how old (or responsible) your kids are, you may want to separate out supplies that they can grab on their own vs. messier supplies that they’ll need to use with your supervision. Designate shelf or cabinet space to store all the usable art supplies. Clearly label where the supplies go, so it’s easy to continue to maintain your system. Make sure to have a stack of clean paper or sketchbooks for your kids to draw on.
- Teach your kids where the supplies are, and how to put them back when they’re done. I worked as an art teacher for a long time (for both kids and adults) so got really good at learning how to store supplies in a way that people could easily find what they need, and also so they could put them back where they go. It takes practice though, so be patient with your kids, and yourself. You may want to set up a daily, weekly, or monthly routine to get in the habit of putting things back where they belong.
- What work space do you have for the kids to work on? Is this a multi-use space (like the dining table) that will need to get picked up before you can do another activity? Or can they lay their projects out and keep them there for a longer period of time? I’m a fan of tables that are height adjustable, because sometimes it’s fun to stand while you work, whereas other times it’s easier to sit. Use something like oil cloth to cover the tables. It’s very durable and easy to wipe clean.
- Where to put work in progress? When you’re creating the space to store supplies, remember to make a place for the kids to store art projects once they’re done. Investing in a multi-level drying rack is a wonderful way to store freshly painted or glued artwork. But where does it go after that? Designate a space on the shelf to store newly finished artwork.
- Once of the most stifling roadblocks to creativity is “what to do with the artwork once they’re done with it”? Many parents want to save everything their kids have created… but how do you do this? My suggestion is to sort the artwork by size. Once it’s sorted and you’ve decided what you want to keep, make sure to label it with the child’s name and approximate age, or date. The big question: do you want to store it physically or digitally? Or a combination of both? If you want to store it physically, I recommend getting a variety of portfolio bags or boxes to store similar sizes of artwork. Archive this work somewhere out of reach. When new artwork gets finished, implement a “holding zone”, clearly separated by size, so that new artwork can accumulate. Make sure your kids know where to put what they’ve finished. At the end of the year (or week, month, or semester… whatever works for you), go through the artwork, keep what you want, and either store it in the bags/boxes you have, or purchase new bags/boxes so that you can separate the different eras. It’s important to keep the previously “curated” art separated from the new art, because you’ll want to take some time to refine what has been created before you decide to keep it forever. File boxes or binders with clear sleeves are other ways to organize artwork, but with the variety of sizes of artwork (and the sheer amount), these may not be your best options.
- Create a rotating and permanent “exhibit” where the kids have designated wall space to show off their latest and most favorite creations. Teach your kids about how to decide what goes in the rotating exhibition versus makes its way to the permanent collection. Frame your favorites! Choose whatever you (and/or your kids) deem as the “best work” and put it in a nice frame. This is a way to show your kids that you appreciate what they’ve done, and it teaches them to appreciate it too.
- Do you want to store the artwork digitally? Clearly label all artwork, and create an area so that you can photograph the work easily and efficiently. You may want to just snap photos with your phone, store them in their own album, and be done with it. If you want to take it a step further, once you’ve snapped the photos, you can store the images into labeled folders within Dropbox, or on your hard drive (backed up of course). Documenting the work in this way gives you additional sorting and labeling options. If you’d like help with this, please send me a message.
- Create a memory book. Many parents have dreams of creating memory books for their kids artwork. Do you want the book to be made with the original artwork, or with copies? Is this a project you want to take on yourself, or one you want to delegate? There are many services out there that can help you create a beautiful book to preserve your kid’s artwork. If you’d like some suggestions, please send me a message.
How do you like to organize your kid’s artwork? Please let us know in the comments!
By Jean Prominski, Certified Professional Organizer
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