I’m a proud neat freak. My oldest daughter, on the other hand, is a pack rat. We frequently clash over her stashes of papers, crafts and other junk/treasures. I’ve learned a few things about helping her cope with her clutter so that we can coexist peacefully. If you also have a pack rat, here’s my tips.
Create an Art Box
When my daughters were in preschool, I helped them create an art box to store their paintings and pictures. When my oldest entered Kindergarten, we continued to store her artwork in the box. This lasted for several years, and actually created a fun walk through memory lane.
I did eventually recycle the box. Yep, it’s now gone. For a while, though, it created a safe place in which my daughter could put her artwork. We didn’t have to fight over putting away her treasures. I did keep a few special pieces before recycling it, but time helps you look back at something and say, “That’s just a scribble—it can go!”
Create an Art Display Area
Whether it’s the front of your fridge, or decorative clips on the wall, create an area where your child can display what they’ve made. (If they’re painting, this also gives you a place to put wet artwork until it dries.)
Once the fridge or clips are full, your child will have to take an old painting down to hang up a new painting. You can talk about the new art exhibit and encourage your child to enjoy what they’ve created for a week or two before something replaces it.
Make a Digital Scrapbook
Often, I take pictures of the girls’ crafts or other creations (block towers, pattern block flowers). This creates a digital record of their creativity we can then put into our annual photobook. Older children can create a homeschool yearbook, or their own digital presentation. (Or just use Instagram!)
My older girls (now 11 and 8) are currently doing an online art class. They’ve been finding artwork they like and making their own artwork in that style, then putting all of them into an online presentation to display at the end of the course.
Use a Sketchbook or Notebook
My girls used to grab a piece of paper from the printer, draw a picture, and then leave the paper on the counter and move on to another project. The papers all over were driving me nuts—especially after I’d recycled it and someone asked, “Where’s my picture of the mermaid?”
To solve this, I bought them each a sketchbook at the dollar store. When they wanted to draw, they could get out their sketchbook instead of grabbing paper from the printer. Then all their drawings were stored in one book. When they filled the sketchbook, I filed it and bought them a new one.
For organizing our homeschool, I use a simple lined notebook. This year, they have a history notebook to write or glue all their history assignments in. In other years, I’ve done a notebook for the year, so that it shows their chronological progress rather than a certain subject area. This makes it easy for me to check their work, because it’s all in one place. We can show their homeschool teacher. And they feel pride in seeing what they’ve done through the year. (At the end of the year, I’ll probably recycle it…)
Another way to get those crafts and paintings out of the house is to gift them! I frequently encourage the girls to send their paintings to Grandma and to give their crafts to a friend or relative. (Grandma, feel free to recycle it after enjoying it!) The girls feel good about sharing their work, Grandma feels involved in their lives, and I don’t have to deal with the craft or paper clutter.
Purge and Face the Tears
Yes, it’s cruel. Notice this is the second-last idea on my list. There are certain times of the year when I simply purge for them. Maybe spring is here and I’ve got the cleaning bug. Maybe we’re moving. Maybe we got them new furniture or just want to rearrange their room. That’s when I bring in a garbage bag and make the decisions for them.
Often, they don’t notice how much I’ve thrown out because they’d forgotten that they had that craft/painting/toy because it had been so buried under other things. Often, they’re happier to have more space, and to see some of the treasures I found and kept for them. And now that it’s happened several times, they just know—it’s gonna happen, so don’t fight it.
Talk about Organizing
As kids get older, you can talk to them about their pack rat tendencies. (Mention that today is Pack Rat Day to start the discussion!) When I help my girls clean up, they do appreciate how much more space they have in their bookshelves and on their desk.
I saw a saying that, “if it takes up your space, it takes up your time.” It takes your time to clean it up and put it away. It takes your time to find it (or something else that’s hidden by it). Having a clean space makes for a nicer home, and as children get older, they start to realize this (even if they are by nature pack rats).
For some children, a system can be helpful. A friend of mine recently watched a few episodes of the Marie Kondo Netflix show with her daughters. They were then inspired to clean their own rooms! It’s also helpful if everyone is doing it, so model a good example, and encourage the whole family to clean up, instead of signalling out one child.
Bonnie Way is a stay-at-home mom with five children ages 11 to 1. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree in English with a history minor and loves reading historical fiction. Bonnie enjoys downhill skiing in the winter and biking with her kids in the summer. When she’s not homeschooling, she can be found blogging as the Koala Mom.