Last night, Kyra busted me for tossing a bright blue conchiglioni (giant pasta shell) she painted at school.
“Mommee, why did you throw my art away?”
I had always dreaded the day my daughter might ask me this question. According to reporter Michael Tortorello, I am a hoarder, not a chucker. I framed the first time she ever drew a circle, a car, our family. We saved every doodle from Kyra’s first month in Kindergarten when she was obsessed with drawing hog creatures from the iPhone app Angry Birds. Every year, we bought mugs or aprons or tiles adorned with her handprints. Our walls and refrigerator are covered with her paintings, sketches, marker scribbles. My file cabinets stuffed with the ones that weren’t on display. Even my window sills are lined with scraps of paper that I couldn’t part with simply because she embellished it with “I [lopsided heart] Momma!”
Sure, I tossed items that would decay, were repetitive or too cumbersome like life-sized cutouts of my daughter. The majority of the time though, I tended to hoard rather than chuck. My grandmother was a famous oil painter and art teacher in China. My mother made a living as a commercial artist and in her free time wrote a book, painted watercolors, designed greeting cards, and shot stunning photographs. It seemed like they saved everything I created and instilled in me love and confidence for artistic expression. I wanted to do the same for my kids. Besides, educators stipulate that displaying a child’s artwork will boost their self-esteem.
What I didn’t anticipate was the sheer volume of “art” my daughter brought home through years of daycare and pre-school. Kindergarten simply avalanched my imperfect system. Daily she brought home stacks of paper: construction or lined, assignments or free-time doodling, letters or envelopes. Sometimes, her brother would find her stash and rip them to shreds. Other times, the two of them would create “gifts,” strips of paper adorned with expressions of love for Mom and Dad, which they would scatter about the house.
To make matters worse, I knew I needed to create more art with my son. So far, I had only one of his creations that he created at hourly care — a thin 16 x 20 sheet of paper curling with paint on my window sill. Most days he is home with me and doodles on my notebooks and papers. He often points at this painting and says proudly, “Dee Dee painted it.”
I can just imagine the magnitude of his terrible twos, a world-is-collapsing-fit, if he found this painting in the trash. Panicking, I had fished Kyra’s conchiglioni out of the trash and asked her what it was. She explained that it was her crab and quickly forgot about the whole incident as she listed all the Alaskan animals she learned at school.
With the conchiglioni proudly displayed on our crowded shelf, I tucked her into bed and spent the next few hours browsing for creative storage options. S. Jhoanna Robledo suggests sorting the art with your children: “Make four piles: one for display, one for storage, one to send, and one for the trash.”
Kindergarten teacher Joanne Walker recommends taking photographs of the ones that don’t make the cut. If I could get organized enough to do that, then I would collect them in a coffee table book, one of several ideas Tortorello recently reviewed. Or even better, force myself to try Dr. David Burton’s idea of sorting my children’s art into two boxes: the permanent one which holds selected works spanning 5-10 years and the temporary one for recent creations.
Have you tried any of these ideas but still remain a “hoarder”?