Stow On The Go: Believe In The Power Of Organizing: February 14, 2014


Clutter of Love

This month, love is in the air. If you have young children, you feel the love – in drawings, paintings, sketches, short stories, sculptures, cards, poems, hand prints, foot prints. The list goes on and on. As parents, we are flooded with their love. Sometimes the love is directed by a teacher. Sometimes it is an inspired, unique creation of the child’s own imagination. We tape it to the wall, tack it to the fridge, pin it to the cork board but over time we are overwhelmed with the sheer volume of memorabilia and how to preserve it.  

My clients who face this challenge are usually in one of two phases:  

Phase 1: Parents with young children: you are still in the “intake” phase of the process. Art work comes pouring in on a daily basis both during the school year and the summers when our children attend camps and programs that yield more arts and crafts projects. It is imperative that we get the situation under control now and not wait until a later time to go through hundreds of pieces of art, paralyzed and unable to make emotional decisions.  

Make sure to have an intake system. Leave the artwork in an active place (a bin in the kitchen for example) and sort on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. Take the pieces you want to keep and move them into a plastic bin (I keep one under the bed of each child). Criteria for keeping items is usually that it is a unique demonstration of the child’s ability – not a project imitated by the entire class and usually not coloring pages unless something unique is demonstrated. At the end of the year, take an hour to review the art and find themes. When you look at a child’s body of work, you will find patterns of repetition as they try something and master it. Select the best examples of these styles and keep those in a portfolio or take photos and make a photobook for the year. On a continued basis, this will help keep the art clutter at bay.  

Phase 2: Seniors with grown children: You are preparing to downsize or remove clutter from your home for reasons of safety and health. You are faced with purging not only your own memorabilia, but that you have collected from your children. If you did not purge throughout their younger years, you can be faced with a vast amount of materials that need to be sorted through.  

Most likely, you are not keeping items for yourself but to return to the child. If so, apply some of the same rules as above. Look for essential and unique pieces. Sort by child and place them in box and then return to the child to let them deal with. If your intention is for you to keep the memorabilia, minimize the space by making a photobook, scrapbook or collage of beautiful, treasured works of art and discard the originals. Ask a tech savvy friend of relative to assist. It is so hard to let go of such unique and special treasures created by the hands of your own children so try to find a compromise that will provide you with the beautiful reminder of that period of time without taking up valuable space.  

Whatever category you fall into, don’t judge yourself harshly for letting things pile up but do make decisions now to take control of the situation. Keep the treasures not the junk! Feel the love.  

Cristina T. Lopez-O’Keeffe is a writer and professional organizer. She started her own business, Stow and Behold, in January of 2013. For inquiries, email

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