Tuesday, January 25, 2011

all in a morning's collecting

My daughters love collecting. For a hard-hearted mother who despises clutter, knowing the proper way to respond is a challenge. Frequent purgings of extraneous items seem like a necessity to me in a small apartment. Yet I imagine how important those crumpled stickers, balloon animals long deflated, every picture they've ever drawn, and every fancied rock from the sandbox are to them. The results are frequently stumbling upon stickers in our bed and rocks in kitchen drawers.

I have a particularly hard time going through their art and trying to decide what to keep and what not to. Who am I to judge the relative importance of their drawings? I once tried involving my four-year-old in the process of paring down her massive collection of drawings. The result? An hour of her carefully examining every drawing, explaining why each was important to her, then placing them all in the "keep" pile (there were approximately four drawings in the discard pile that were rejected purely for cosmetic reasons: wrinkling or a tear at the edge). Afterwards I felt like a criminal for even contemplating disposing of anything. The flat nature of most of their art has enabled me to mostly not face up to the problem. But as the designated art box in the closet has reached its limit and is now overflowing, I realize my days of denial are rapidly coming to an end.
 The temporary nature of objects collected outside helps me feel a bit less criminal. Both girls love carting the outdoors into our home (after a careful selection process, of course). I happily keep the leaves and flowers around for a few days until the flowers have thoroughly wilted and the leaves have crumbled. I have on occasion moved the growing rock collection to the back porch (the four-year-old only protested for a minute). Pine cones and driftwood sometimes last months before either being carried back outside by my younger daughter or removed back to their natural habitat by me without a twinge of guilt.

I, myself, am actually fond of selecting objects outdoors that catch my eye. Perhaps it is because I know they are often so fleeting in their beauty and will soon be back outside.

My younger daughter's collection this morning reminded me of a pair of leaves I once carried home. Any amount of time outside with her results in a pocket full of rocks, leaves and flowers (mine almost certainly, and hers as well if she happens to have pockets). This morning it was a handful of smaller leaves and a few flowers nestled in a larger leaf, dried and curled at its edges. I love the embracing shape that leaves take on as they dry. This is my daughter's collection today, paired with mine from a few years ago.


  1. ahh, collections. with the four younger kids in one room, it's a weekly chat we have about what stays and what goes.

    that drawing is fantastic. pen and ink?

  2. We struggle with the collecting too. Rocks seems to be Kate's favorite item to hoard and bring into the house. I have no idea how many my poor vacuum has usurped from our living room rug.

    Our art collection is overflowing too. Periodically I purge by sending packets of art work to the grandparents and aunts. A friend of mine scans everything into the computer and then only keeps a handful of the originals. Maybe one of these days I'll get ambitious enough to do that...

  3. yes yes! we kept a book of Grace's "best" artwork when she was very young, and got a giant 3 inch binder full (and it only went up from about age 1-3). we had the same experience where we asked her to keep the best but she kept everything. what we do now is display the artwork on a clothesline in our art room for about a month or two. the very best ones (i my opinion; yes, i get to choose) i take pictures of (thank goodness for digital cameras and paperless folders), the rest i toss. the kids never remember what art they have done and don't miss it. it took a long time to realize that i have to do it without them around!

    i love the picture you drew. i think you should sell your prints on etsy. that way i can decorate my living room with framed pieces of your artwork.

  4. one more thing: i've made cards to family members by cutting out pieces of the kids art. like, if Ezra does a watercolor, i will trace his hand over the watercolor, cut it out, and send it as a card. i haven't had any kids protest my cutting up their paintings yet! but you could mat it instead also.

  5. It's comforting to know I'm not the only mom that struggles with how to approach this. Scanning the drawings has definitely crossed my mind - good to hear that it's an accepted practice! My husband keeps suggesting that we send artwork to relatives as well. And Kennan, I love the idea of making cards out of their artwork.

    The drawing is pen and ink. I did, actually, make a few prints of it - perhaps it will appear on Etsy one of these days...

  6. Your drawing is lovely. Especially paired with the leaf your daughter found. What a nice aesthetic echo right there.

  7. I have, yet, long under-bed type boxes in the attic for each of my children. Some of them -- those opposed to clutter -- have no interest in the contents of these boxes. However, that's okay. About once a year, during the course of attic cleaning, I find myself wandering through each of these boxes, full of sweet, tangible reminders. Periodically, my 27-year-old son mentions an object from his childhood. I assure him it's still there. He appears to gain comfort and satisfaction from knowing I keep the treasures of his past.