Thursday, June 13, 2013

Declutter & Kids - Artwork

Artwork is big in our house. With a 5 year old and a 6 year old in the house we have more than enough artwork. The big question is - how to deal with it?!

There are a couple of things to look at before you get rid of it though.
1. It has emotional value
2. It's a gift from a child or something your child is proud of
3. Your child is still learning how to let things go

I am constantly reminding our girls that we keep memories, not necessarily stuff (though there are always exceptions). When we first began on our journey, the girls knew where the tape was and would place their artwork in any old place in the house. This made for an entire house full of crazy looking art.

Step One: Contain the Mess

My first move, before I started getting rid of ANYTHING was to centralize the mess to one spot and simultaneously setting up limitations that would have to be addressed. So I created the "Art Wall". This came about through a series of Martha Stewart (coincidence, it was a gift) ribbon, clothes pins, and a glue gun.

Here is the Art Wall!  It is very simple in design. (And this is all the end-of-school art that I'm behind on - I am doing it today which is why I'm posting about it) Every 6 inches or so I hot glued a clothes pin behind the ribbon. I turned the ends of the ribbon into bows and used little picture hanging nails to tack them up onto the wall.

How it is organized, because it is! The top ribbon is for Mommy and Daddy to pick something we really love and place it on the top row for all to see. The Middle ribbon is for the oldest and the Lowest ribbon is for the youngest - for height reasons.

The girls know when they get home from school to get all their art work (Not their school work usually unless it is an award of some kind) and put it on their ribbon. The clothespins mean they are easy to hang and can hang more than one thing.

Sometimes I don't get to the Art Wall for a week or two. Of course, I recommend keeping on top of things! But sometimes life just gets away from us and we forget about things like what we are supposed to be doing to keep from drowning in an overflowing wall of art.

Step Two: Organize and Declutter the Mess

Here is what I do with the artwork: I take photos of them.
My oldest is a bit of a hoarder. It can be small things that she collects in her pockets, every odd piece of wrapping on a gift or toy, or in this case every piece of art she ever made.

So we came up with a solution that works for everyone - Scrapbooking.
But it wouldn't be decluttering if we went the traditional route and it wouldn't be minimalist or time saving if we spent hours upon hours scrapbooking our childrens' artwork.

Here is my favorite way to do it:

1. At least once a week, take photos of ALL the artwork (on the wall - it's already hanging perfectly for you!) I use my phone (An iPhone 3s or something)
2. My phone has the Dropbox application (free) connected to a free Dropbox account and it syncs when I'm at home (uses our wifi which means it is not eating up my data/internet for my phone). My phone will automatically sync after I start taking photos.
3. Moving to my computer, I open up Dropbox and open up the photos in my personal favorite digital scrapbooking service (also free) - Mixbook

Really quickly - why is Mixbook my favorite?

  • If you make sure you take photos and pictures of art as they are created, Mixbook will 'shuffle' your photos into your scrapbook by date. You just press a magic "Mix it" (or something) button and it places all the photos in a template you choose. Instant Scrapbook for kids artwork.
  • You can share the book online for free - just add the emails of who you want to have access or send them a link. You can set your artwork book to 'public' as well. I only do this with artwork books that don't have our girls' photos because well some people are creepy.
  • You can view the book in very large size and good detail!
  • If family decide they love the book, they can order a book so long as they have a link! You don't have to send them one, they can choose to buy one without any help from you. If they choose to simply see the book online they can save the link and look at it whenever they get the urge (unless you delete it!)
  • You can send links to family and continue to work on your mixbook, adding stuff, changing stuff, etc. They can see it in almost real time after you save the book, they can see the changes.
  • You can order copies of your books and always have the originals/backups online in digital form. (Great in worries of floods, fires, or other disasters)
The only thing I don't like about Mixbook - and it's silly - is that you can't add video. But Video is currently my project this summer so stay tuned for that!

4. After all the pictures are uploaded to Mixbook I don't mess with the Mixbook at all. (It's a good idea to simply use the 'shuffle' button unless you want to be sucked into your Mixbook for ages). A word of caution - if you label your pages and pictures, you will lose all of that when you press 'shuffle'. Shuffle is really the way to go for artwork and an initial one-time 'shuffle' is the way to go with a real photo book - filling in details after the fact.

5. If you are scrapbooking photos and memories - it's a good idea to set aside 15 minutes a week to scrapbook these sorts of things. That means laying out the weeks photos, labeling them, adding little cute elements (Mixbook has a small collection - all free!)

Tips for Digital Scrapbooking
  • Your memory is endless - I mean your camera memory. Shoot as much as you want during memory making but make sure you spend a few minutes a day going through your downloaded photos and weeding out the photos that you wouldn't print out and send to family. If someone is blinking, if there is a photo bomb by a cat, if someone is bending over, you get the idea. It's hard to weed out photos AFTER they are uploaded to Mixbook so make sure you do it before you press 'Upload'
  • Even once your photos are uploaded to Mixbook, you should keep copies safe online in a secure storage place. I move mine to a sort of photo archive folder within Dropbox so I know that I have added them to Mixbook but if anything happens, I have them in a safe place (organized by date (year /month) and child). 
  • If you decide to really get into digital scrapbooking you can purchase scrapbooking elements and upload them into your Mixbook and place them on pages! It can be a lot of fun but remember that digital organization of digital scrapbook elements can get out of hand just like hands-on scrapbooking so word of caution!
Now the final step - letting go of the clutter.

6. Once the girls' artwork is uploaded, I let them SEE it. They get to flip through the digital pages and see their artwork. As they find it - they decide if they want to keep their art on the art wall for another week, or if they want to throw it away. You will be VERY surprised how excited children will be to see their artwork in a BOOK and if you explain that it is a FOREVER book, they will let go of a majority of their artwork. Not all - which is good, the art wall shouldn't be empty.  But just like we tell our girls "Now we can make room for MORE arts and crafts, right?" and they start getting rid of what is in the way for more arts and crafts!

7. Let the children throw it out - this gives them the power over their gift/their creation and teaches them about memories versus things. It gives them POWER over things and in a world where things mean more to some than people, this is an important thing to learn.

I hope you have loved this digital minimalist scrapbook idea!

Disclaimer - I get a referral bonus if you click on the Mixbook or Dropbox links. This means discounts on printed Mixbooks and additional free storage space on Dropbox. If you use my referral links - Thank you!

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