The great art cull of 2007

How long do you keep your kids art and what do you do with it?

Everyday The Girl is at preschool they do an art project, and every one of them comes home at some point. Add on to that the numerous arts and crafts she does at home and soon you have a mountain of half finished drawings, paintings, scribbles and popsicle stick creations.

We’re in the process of doing a cull and having to decide what to keep and what to toss. The tossing is hard. Normally, I’m as efficient as the crew on Clean Sweep, but when it comes to The Girl’s art, I need a bit of declutter therapy as parting is very difficult. I guess it’s the fear that someday I’ll want to look back on this stuff as a reminder of the little girl she used to be. But how much do I need to trigger that memory, and what pieces will do it?

Our process for deciding what stays and what goes is something like this.

  1. Does the piece have sentimental meaning? The paintings and artwork The Girl did specifically for her baby brother when he was still in utero, for example, will stay and perhaps get framed for The Boy’s bedroom. Anything she does that is specifically for someone stays.
  2. Did the artwork represent a significant development moment? We have the first drawing of a person that she did, as much of a person drawing as a 3 year old can do, with arms and legs sticking out of a big amoeba like shape on the page.
  3. Does it have a letter of the alphabet on it? Lately this has taken on more significance, but I’m sure once we have a thousand pieces of paper with a red painted M on it we’ll change our mind and it will go into the discard pile.
  4. Is this art associated with a memory? There are pieces that have reminders of things and events attached to them. Those stay.
  5. Do we like it? This is the toughest and most subjective criteria, but The Girl has done some lovely pieces, especially when she plays with water colours. I love the way she mixes colour with some of these, so they stay.

That seems to reduce the “keepable” stuff to around 25% of what we had. With this we label her name and date on it, and either pack it away for the basement to be pulled out at some future moment, or have on display in some fashion around the house. We also have a couple of items we want to do more with, like the picture she painted for her brother.

With the other 75%, we have been offering pieces to close friends and family (Grandparents are always good to take some stuff off your hands), taking some to work for offices and desktops, and recycling the rest. It’s a process that I am sure we will be going through many times throughout our lives. And I am sure each time it will be just as difficult as The Great Art Cull of 2007 is turning out to be.

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