Sorting Through Your Child’s Masterpieces: What to Save and What to Let Go

Your child is brilliant, each year bringing home countless pieces of artwork, trophies and high marks on various tests and you, the supportive parent, proudly put those accomplishments on display for all to see. Your friends and family marvel at their amazing talent and then….what do you do with it?

As parents, you want to hold on to every moment of your child’s life and preserve it forever. Since your child probably isn’t Picasso and let’s be honest, participation trophies are meaningless, you’re going to want to come up with a game plan to prevent all that talent from turning into clutter. Here are some tips on how to decide which of your children’s art projects to save and which to let go.

1. Keep only the top 10 accomplishments each year. This way you have to start making decisions immediately and it’s something you and your child can do together. Once the artwork, trophy or A+ is ready to come down from the refrigerator or wherever you keep it, you and your child can work together to decide if that piece is truly “a keeper.” It will help your child learn how to make organizational decisions and how to let go of things that aren’t truly special to them. By only keeping a certain number, it’ll help keep the clutter down. Choose whatever number feels right to you based on their talent and the available space you have in your home.

2. Store the accomplishments in a safe place. Keep everything together safely in a storage bin or box that is away from heat and sunlight. Wrap trophies, pottery and other breakable items in bubble wrap or newspaper to keep them from getting broken. Mark down the year the artwork was created so when you go back to reminisce, you’ll have a record of what was created and when.

3. Nothing lasts forever. Artwork made with macaroni or other food types won’t last more than a few years, at most. Glue also may not last forever and so items that were glued on to a piece of paper may not look so great 10 years down the road. Colors may also fade. Taking a photo of something you truly love may be the best way to preserve it as it originally looked and be prepared for certain things not to survive.

4. Turn the pieces into an art project. Here’s where you can get creative. You can create a scrapbook of the best pieces of art to either save for yourself or give to your child as a gift when they become an adult. You can also simply frame your favorite pieces and hang them around your home or give them to your child as a gift. You can do a collage of all the pieces of artwork over the years and hang that piece up or you can snap a photo of all the artwork and have a quilt made for them. These are all good examples of how you can actively enjoy these accomplishments without your home looking like a shrine to your child.

Remember that the purpose of keeping items is because you want to enjoy and use what you have. Boxing something up and then never looking at it again or saving everything is pointless and a waste of space. At the end of high school it may be that you and your child simply want to reminisce about their short-lived art career and then prefer to throw everything away to make room for the next great thing your child does — like building a life, home and family. Also, remember that spending time with your kids is going to stay in their memories far longer than that macaroni necklace they made you in third grade.