By Jaime Mathews

How to Lovingly Treasure (and Toss) Your Kids’ Endless Art Projects

Mamahood + Homeschool

The Sweet Life

December 6, 2021

Don’t get me wrong, I love that my kids are able to express themselves creatively. But is that scribble of a cat that actually looks more like a tumbleweed, which took them about thirty seconds to make, really worth keeping? Maybe not… 

If you live in a home with kids under the age of ten, I imagine you have the same challenge as I do: what in the world do we do with all of our kiddos’ art projects? I mean, they work tirelessly on all of those coloring projects, Play-Doh creations, watercolor artwork and paper hats? Are we really that cruel to crumple any of them up and throw them in the recycling? The short answer is YES. 

Why It’s Unhealthy to Keep All of Your Kids’ Crap

I may be a lone ranger on this one, but do we really need to keep every single item from our little one’s childhood? If you are reading this and still have every single one of your kids’ lost teeth stashed away, then this article may not be for you. I’m just kidding, please keep reading. But seriously, as any parent of an elementary schooler or preschooler knows, kids love to do art. And that is such a powerful tool for learning and development. But as the regular recipient of each and every one of their artistic expressions, it is not only impossible to keep all of them, it is unhealthy. 

Why do I say unhealthy? Keeping every scrap of your kids’ artwork is unhealthy for several reasons:

1. It creates clutter

If you have one child doing endless art projects, the banker boxes full of their kept creations can become overwhelming and create a serious clutter issue. What if you have two, three, or four (or more!) children? I don’t know about you, but storage is not plentiful in my home. But more than the storage war, keeping every piece of art from your kids creates clutter. And clutter is a big problem. Research shows that clutter can strongly impact (negatively) our physical health and mental state of mind. Having excess in our life can cause anything from anxiety to stress and depression. So clearing out the clutter—including little Henry’s dried Play-Doh collection—is a way to create and sustain health in your home.

2. Too much of a good thing

We have all heard the saying, “Too much of a good thing is still too much.” I hope one day that I coin a phrase that is this profound. In the meantime, let’s talk about that. When we have too much of anything, whether it be considered positive or not, it still creates an imbalance in our lives. For example, although exercise is beneficial for all of us, too much exercise can lead to injury or the breakdown of muscle. The same is true with everything in life. We need moderation not excess because the more we have, the more we have to figure out what to do with it all. And when it comes to your kids’ artwork, the same is true. How much is too much to keep? If storing it is creating stress in your life, then it’s not worth holding on to all of it. 

3. Too much creates lackluster

I don’t know about you, but when my girls first started preschool, I was determined to make a scrapbook of their work for each of them to look back on when they were older. But as the construction paper kept piling in, I got so overwhelmed by it all that I started just throwing it into one of my cabinets in my office. And guess what? They are now in second grade and that same (yet growing) pile of art is still there. If I had lovingly purged early on, I may have been inspired to tackle the scrapbooks for my girls. But now it feels like such a huge undertaking that I keep saving it for a time when I will not be so busy. So basically, I’ll be giving it to them for their college graduation because I highly doubt I will be any less busy until that time in my life.

What to Keep of Little Picasso’s Pieces

Lovingly saying goodbye to some of your kids’ art will make you a much happier mama. But, if you don’t do it slyly and strategically, you could crush your kids’ artistic dreams for a moment. I say moment because you mustn’t forget that kids do forget rather easily, so I think it’s safe to say that if they catch you tossing their popsicle stick snowman, you still have a good chance that they will turn out okay. But how do you know what to keep and what to purge? And then, how do you “circular file” without them knowing?

Let’s first talk about what to keep. When I go through my three kids’ artwork now, I search for specific traits for what to keep and what to toss. For example, can you legibly read their handwriting? Have they finally spelled their name without writing one of the letters backwards? Actually, I definitely recommend keeping some of those because it’s just so darn cute as they learn to read and write. What about color? I keep anything that looks like it took some serious time and effort to produce. If my four-year-old comes home with a piece of paper that has one blue scribble and nothing more, it’s a goner. But if my girls come home and I see a full spectrum of color rainbow or a card with hearts and flowers that says something sweet, it’s a keeper. When my son greets me in his classroom with a piece of art that he’s especially proud of, then I keep that too. 

One word of advice: make sure that you write your child’s name, age, and grade on the back of the artwork you decide to keep. You may think you will remember these times fifteen or even five years from now, but chances are you won’t. So before you store it away, make sure you time capsule it for them.

How to Harry Houdini Excess Artwork

Anyone ever been caught throwing your kids’ artwork away? I have become really good at strategically getting rid of the art evidence but I have gotten caught a time or two (or ten). Just last week, my son evidently rummaged through my bathroom garbage can (I thought he finally understood the grossness in that, but I guess not), and found a small piece of art he had created for me. I had sneakily slid it down the side of the trash can liner but he somehow saw and horrifyingly brought it to me. Now let me first say that I am NEVER an advocate of lying to your children. Like ever. But in this case, I just didn’t have the heart to tell my four-year-old son that I trashed the coloring creation he spent all of two minutes on, so I gasped and told him that I couldn’t imagine how that got into the garbage! I know, I know. I have repented of my sins already.

So now that I know I still have a garbage rummager, I wait until the night before trash day to do my art purging. I make sure the kids are in a different room and then I slide the excess art into the recycling bag and then immediately take it out to the recycle bin. I figure, if my kids have the audacity to dig through our 64-gallon recycling can, then they have the right to know what’s in there. But luckily, they stay out, so it’s a safe purging place for now. 

Being strategic is important because the last thing we parents want is for our kids to feel like we don’t think they are the next Pablo Picasso (and we also don’t want to lie to them when we get caught). We can and should encourage their creative sides, their artistic endeavours, and their papier mache creations. But we also need to take care of ourselves and our homes by picking and choosing what art to keep and what can go bye-bye.


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Jaime Mathews      Author

Jaime is a woman of many hats: follower of Jesus, wife, mama of three, homeschooler, business owner, blogger, writer and aspiring homesteader. Follow her on instagram @jaimeleemathews.

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