Ask Kiddio: What to Do With All of this Artwork?

Dear Kiddio, 
I like all of the creative things you do on your blog, but what do you do with all this stuff once you're done?  My kids come home with so much artwork from school and make more at home.  I feel really bad throwing it away, but honestly, how can I store all of this stuff...should I even try?  We've got boxes of it already, is there a better way to manage all of this?  I would love to hear what ideas you have for this one! 
Thanks, Ellen (a.k.a. Drowning in a Sea of Drawings).

Dear Ellen, 
This is a great question, and one that we can all relate to.  Kids grow up so fast that it's hard to bring yourself to just throwing away artwork that seems so irreplaceable and holds such meaning to your child.  Storage presents its own issues since kids make so much of it and it comes in such awkward shapes and sizes. 
Before we talk about strategies for keeping it organized though, let's really think about what we're keeping and why.  I started out archiving everything that Josie made.  I have a large art folio filled with scribbles, early pictures of 'dogs' and 'kites' (also resemble scribbles), shaving cream 'paintings'...even early preschool worksheets.  It's neatly stored, mostly dated and labeled...but seriously, what am I ever going to do with it?  I guess my plan was to pass it along to Josie when she's older, but at that point what will she do with it?  It might be fun to look through a few times, but I expect that she'll feel as guilty throwing it away as I did and it'll be another bit of clutter for her to move around.   I've since decided to keep only a selection of the most important works--those that represent a strong interest, she put a lot of effort into, or are just really worth looking back on in the future.

Store it:  
  • First, use a pencil to label and date the piece on the back.  Make notes about the content of the art, since it may not be immediately apparent that that blue scrawl is a slide twenty years down the road.
  • Purchase a large art folio (or make your own by taping two pieces of matboard together on three sides) to store the artwork flat.  The archival, acid-free envelope or matboard will keep the artwork from yellowing, and the handles on a folio allow you to hang it up in the back of a closet.
  • Store a year's artwork in a shirt box.  They're usually just the right size for 8 1/2" x 11" paper (or larger pieces folded in half), and are easy to find so you can get a new one each year.  Pizza boxes work too, but are a bit harder to store.
  • Scan or photograph the originals and have them printed in book form each year.
  • Paste favorites in a coffee-table-book-sized scrapbook and keep it out where it can be looked through.
So what to do with the rest?  There are a few options here: trash it, send it away, display it, or make it into something else. 
Trash it:  
  • I've talked with both of the older kids about this (following a particularly unpleasant episode where Josie found a cache of artwork in the recycle bin) and we decide which of their masterpieces are really worth keeping.  At this point we keep a few items a month for each kid, as well as the occasional special-for-mommy creation that I keep in my memory box.  Many peices go in the recycle bin.
  • If getting rid of it right away is tough for you, you might consider keeping it all for a given period of time before you go through and pitch the least-important pieces.  
Send it away 
  • We keep a couple of shallow boxes around to send to far-away relatives.  Things that are worthwhile but don't make the cut to keep forever and ever often go into these boxes and are mailed off periodically (with some cookies to thank them for taking it off our hands).  The family loves getting these boxes and it's fun to talk with the kids on the phone about what they sent.  
  • For kids who are into sending mail to their friends, we'll put something nice in an envelope and put it in their backpack at school or drop it in the mail.   
  • Fold art in half, write inside, and send off as an easy, meaningful thank-you card. 
Remake it:  
  • We often take earlier pieces of artwork and cut them up for collages, glue them to a popsicle stick for an instant puppet, make paper airplanes from them, etc.  
  • Smaller pictures can be glued onto a large piece of paper and laminated with clear contact paper for a personal placemat, or cut into strips, woven together, and laminated for a coaster.  
  • Kids' artwork is also very effective in the 'photo-of-the-month' calendars you can pick up around Christmastime ($1 at Michael's!) to make good family gifts. 
Display it:
  • Create a unique room divider or full-length wall-hanging by sandwiching favorites between two sheets of clear contact paper. 
  • Hang a 'clothesline' in your child's room or play space and stock it with clothespins for them to clip favorite works on.
  • Collect a number of large, interesting picture frames, remove the glass (optionally you can replace it with a piece of matboard), and paint them a single color, then hang on the wall.  Display art inside the empty frame.
  • Photograph favorites and have them made into a large poster or place in a scrapbook.  This is a great way to manage especially large, three-dimensional, or otherwise unwieldy stuff!
    What have you done to manage the artwork your child(ren) shower you with, and what ideas do you have for Ellen? 

    This is the second in an ongoing series...Got a parenting/craft/kid/etc-related question for Ask Kiddio? Email it to ask (at) kiddio (dot) org and look for an answer in an upcoming post!
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