I know. Those of you who know me well are thinking,”Why in the world would SHE be talking about clutter? She doesn’t know how to deal with it herself?” And, it’s true. you could say that I am a failure in this area but, I don’t really feel like a failure…I keep things that I need, and I keep things that I may need, and I keep things that I’ll never need, but it makes me feel good to know it’s there…just in case I do. I have been wrong before. If your mind doesn’t work like mine…you probably can not understand this. If you can throw away things without batting an eye…then I know you think I’m a sad, sad girl. Even though I can live easily with clutter, I must go on to say that in the past few years I have gotten much better at letting go …but sometimes I still find myself keeping what I shouldn’t. That and Don would not let me move to The Creek House with him if I brought everything with me! HOWEVER…even though I do have this ‘pack rat’ mentality, at times…let me tell you what I did get right!

If you are a mom of a child in school…especially preschool and the early grades…you are most likely overwhelmed by the amount of ‘take home’ papers that come to your house each week. I remember those times. I remember, too, that my boys wanted every.single. one. of those masterpieces to go on the fridge …and stay there for the next year! And, because buying refrigerator magnets was cheap and quick to buy as souvenirs when we travelled, we had magnets out the wazoo! There were plenty of magnets for whatever artist was showing that week on the Owens’ Family Fridge!

Really, we could have covered the whole refrigerator with just magnets! And, I tried to carve out just a little corner of space to use for Dr. appt or dental reminders. How unfair of me. Artwork, field trip reminders, homework to be redone, parts to learn from school…….and from church a Noah’s Ark from Sunday morning’s lesson, and a Daniel in the Lion’s Den from the Sunday night lesson, and a lovely song to memorize the words to from choir on Wednesday nights. All this x 3!! Oh! and the list of things to bring to Missions to be sent off to the missionaries in darkest Africa. Toothpaste and toothbrushes and lotion and shampoo…you know the things they need to live a better life in the jungle. Oh, I’m just kidding. I take missions very seriously.

Fortunately, some of the choicest items would spill over to Grandma’s or Granny and Pop’s house to brighten up their kitchen! I must be honest…I love children’s artwork. I love the colors and the ideas behind their works. I do not, however, like coloring pages of any kind. And, I do not like for every child in the class to make a red flower with a green stem and 1 leaf on the right and 1 leaf on the left and a blue sky above. This shows no creativity…only the ability to follow directions. Which is, I agree, a most valuable lesson to be learned, but it contributes nothing to the inner artist that every child has inside. I have worked with young children in some capacity for 30 or more years and never used pre printed pages. But, I know everyone does not feel the same way I do about that subject. These are just my views. And, through the years, we had coloring books in our house. But, in a teaching capacity, I would always choose clean, white paper.

So. What to do with that plethora of paper? First of all, some of it accidentally fell on the floor and got swept into the trash. But, I bought some of those cardboard boxes you get at the office supply stores, and folded them together and gave one to each boy. This is where we would put the papers he wanted to keep. I also let each of them use the doors to their rooms as their own personal show off space. At the end of the year, we would go through the boxes and keep only the art that really meant something to them. The rest got trashed.

As I got older I came upon other good ideas of things to do with the artwork.

One idea, if your child wants to keep quite a bit, is to take it to a color copier and reduce all the pages down to a 4X6 size. Then, buy one of those inexpensive photo albums from the Dollar Store and put all the pictures in his own album. Then he can sit and show it to everyone who ever comes to your house to visit. Or take it to school and show it off to the envy of all his friends.

You can take any artwork and copy it on a regular copy machine or even you printer with your computer. Take it to a window and use a transfer pen to go over the lines your child has drawn…you are drawing on the back…which is why you need to be at the window. ..so you can see the lines through the paper. Then you can take that picture and put it on fabric of any kind. You will heat set it with an iron. Canvas bags, muslin to make into pillows, pillowcases, t-shirts, etc. You can buy the transfer pens at any craft store.

It will be in black and white. But then, using washable markers, your child can have the fun of coloring his work again. Wash it and the color comes out…to be colored again. Or use permanent markers if this is a one time fun time. Use permanent markers at your own risk. They will not come out…of clothes, carpet, or any type of fabric. One year, while teaching Sunday School, I had the children draw me a picture of their Mom. I then transferred each child’s pic on to a canvas tote bag. I and the other teachers sat close by while they colored these with permanent markers. We wrapped them and gave them to their Moms for Mother’s Day. They loved it! We did the same thing on another year with plastic plates! We purchased an easel for the plate to be displayed on. Another hit!

There are several other things you can do, as well. Shrink the work down very small and use it to make a magnet—for the fridge, of course!!!! You can buy magnets of any size in the craft store. Most of these come with a sticky back to adhere the picture. Hang a line low enough that he can hang his own work with clothespins. Or hang several frames in his room and have a rotating gallery of favorite work!

And, old artwork makes delightful wrapping paper! Grandparents love it especially!

I hope this gives you some ideas to tame that slew of art work. And, just one more word…if you will permit. OK…2 words. #1. I encourage you to give your child or grandchild plain white paper and crayons for drawing. Let the artwork be totally his. Coloring what someone else has drawn is just that-coloring what someone else has drawn! Not much creativity there. See? if he draws the lines…he doesn’t have to stay in the lines of another’s work. Maybe he thinks the bug should be bigger, or the car should be taller! FOSTER CREATIVITY ! #2. A child knows exactly what he has drawn. And, you should know what it is, too—in his mind. So if you ask him, “What is that?”…he can not understand why you do not know. I mean, you ARE the Mommy or Grandmother, and you’re supposed to know everything! A much gentler way of finding out what those ‘oh, so strange’ markings are all over the paper is to say, “Tell me about your picture.” Oh, how that will open up a wonderful dialogue between the two of you. He loves to talk about what he drew. And, no one will ever have to know that you didn’t have a clue!