The XX Factor

What To Do When Your House Becomes a Modern Art Museum

As I write this from my home office, I’m gazing upon a 4 foot-by-5 foot piece of abstract contemporary art (pictured at right). There’s a tree and a blue sky and some purple mountains’ majesty, and I can kind of make out a creature on the right-hand side.  My two older sons made it for us when we were in the hospital having our third child. I love it.

But I’m far more ambivalent about the cardboard Ikea storage boxes that sit behind me, in a corner, almost hidden from view. It took me a good hour this weekend to find them, buried as they were under months and months of artwork that our kids have brought home from, respectively, first grade and preschool, or have created sitting at the kitchen counter.

So I can totally relate to the New York Times article that shared how different parents cope with their children’s art work .  (No, the famed homemade-birthday-card critic Amy Chua was not quoted.) You want to inspire your children and give them the freedom to be creative, but what the heck are you supposed to do with 37 Star Wars -themed battle scenes created during a rainy week last July?

My goal is to keep enough artwork to be representative of their age and development. I want someday to be able to say, “Oh, that’s when his interest changed from trains to battles to houses, and wow, look, now he’s an architect.” But I also want to avoid being featured on an episode of Hoarders.

And so we do make a point of keeping-and displaying prominently-the really cool stuff. Hence, the art on our office wall.  The less exciting stuff is destined for the storage boxes. But for me, the real concession I had to make was neither overcoming my sentimental packrat mentality and throwing things out nor resisting the temptation, in a burst of frustration-inspired cleaning, to throw everything away.  I’m not a neat freak, and someday-SOMEDAY, I SWEAR-I will have a housekeeper.  In the meantime, we do our best. But we have a nice big island in our kitchen, and it drives me up the wall when it gets overly cluttered with mail and keys and homework and I can’t cook dinner. It’s calming and peaceful to have it cleaned off.

But we’ve learned that the kids do a lot more artsy and creative things when we leave a big stack of paper and various Crayola products sitting out. If we put them away in the rolling cabinet we got ust for art storage, they would never use them. So my kitchen is cluttered, and it leaves me more paper to surreptitiously recycle when they are at a friend’s house or napping. But they’re making art, and that’s the important thing.

Photograph courtesy of the author.