Managing Mounds of Kids Artwork

Lucy artwork

Are you a parent? Congratulations! This means you have a kid! Which means you probably have TONS of kids artwork. Hundreds — or even thousands — of sheets of paper, covered with colored squiggles, broad, dramatic paint strokes, googly eyes, traced-hands-turkeys, houses with no doors, heads, arms, and legs with no bodies, and story after story after story. You may even have encountered the feeling that you are drowning in paper, literally or metaphorically. Moms and dads, I see you. And I’m here to help.

I have twin daughters who love to draw and write, so for each year of school, I had double the number of pages coming home. Before we were even done with preschool I knew I had to find a solution to this problem, and pronto, before elementary school began and the artwork would be supplemented with handwriting exercises, arithmetic worksheets, and composition books. And I’m pleased to be able to report, I did find a solution; one that worked amazingly well. My kids are now in the 8th grade and we have exactly ONE box of keepsake artwork for each of them. And each box is only half full. But it’s a nice sampling of the kind of drawing and writing they were doing from age 4 to 14 (so far), as well as programs from performances, ticket stubs from special shows, each year’s holiday card, and a few photos here and there (obviously I have millions of photos stored all over my computer and the cloud — no kid today will ever suffer from too few photos of themselves).

Once you’ve decided which artwork to keep and which artwork to toss (under cover of darkness, when there are no kids to thwart you) what do you do with it? It’s fun to hang their masterpieces in your house, but covering the fridge with stuff can get so messy. Well the fine folks at Charlotte Today asked me to join them and share some ideas for displaying your your pint-sized Picasso’s pieces of art. I also explain my process for deciding what to keep and what to toss. Check out the video:

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On the air I showed 3 basic ways to show your children’s artwork, but while I have your attention, I thought I’d share a few more.

Twine and Clothes Pins

ahappynest_artwall1 ahappynest_artwall2

This is an idea you’ve probably seen before, on design blogs or on Pinterest, which shows you what a great idea it is. It’s super easy to create, you can hang art of all different sizes, and it’s simple to change the art or just add to the display as new artwork comes in. I borrowed these great images from Nikole from A Happy Nest. She put two screws in the wall, strung a piece of twine between them, and used clothes pins to hang each piece. Regular sized clothes pins work great, or you can find mini clothes pins in craft stores like Michael’s or Jo-Ann. The art will look great clipped to jute, baker’s twine, ribbon, or monofilament. And if you’re not motivated enough to get out the screwdriver, you can even hang the line with thumbtacks. Whatever works for you, it will look great. And your kid will be thrilled.

Spiral Bound Notebooks

Sometimes your kids bring home a series of pieces where every piece is great, but you don’t necessary want to put the whole series on the wall. Or you may find, when you’re looking back through that box from last year, that you have a bunch of work from the same time period that’s all so great you don’t want to get rid of any of it. Or you may find that you just have a bunch of pieces of the same size. These are all great candidates for a spiral bound book. Any local copy shop (Sir SpeedyFedex Office, Staples, etc.). can do this for you and let me tell you, it looks fantastic! When one of my daughters was in preschool, she drew a picture of every kid in her class. The style was amazing and I loved every one of the drawings. So I made them into a book, with a cover that she designed that says, “My Friends.” We have a few others, and both of my kids love flipping through them and laughing at how “bad” they used to be at drawing. Ha!




Mod Podge Boards

Chances are, if you have ever used Mod Podge before, you love it. Like Windex in My Big Fat Greek Wedding, there is very little Mod Podge cannot do. And for preserving your favorite children’s artwork in a truly special way, it has no equal. Especially considering how simple and inexpensive it is.


I got an 8ft long 1 x 12 board from Home Depot and asked the lumber guy to cut it for me into 9″ lengths. This gave me ten 9 x 12 pieces that were perfect for mounting 8.5 x 11 paper. I painted and stained the wood to work well with the different art I chose to mount. Then I Mod Podged the artwork onto the board and let it dry completely (if you don’t, the paper may ripple and bubble). Finally, using a sponge brush, I applied a few coats of Mod Podge to the whole board, artwork and all. This seals the art to the board, and gives the whole thing a nice protective finish (I like matte, but they have glossy, satin, and even glitter). The finished boards look amazing arranged in a collage on the wall. And my kids LOVE them, especially as they get older.

What have you done to manage all your kids’ artwork? Have you come up with some clever ideas for displaying it in your house? I’d love to see! Share with us in the comments, or head over to the Facebook page and post some photos! If you’re an Instagram fan, tag your photos with #stepawayfromthescreen so I can see what you’ve created!

House Rules

Hey kids! I thought it might be time for another story about something I stepped away from the screen and made. Yeah? Okay! This story has a few “parts” to it, so I thought I’d break it down into bite size pieces.

Act 1 —

Scene 1:
About a year and a half ago, I started writing our family’s “house rules.” I had seen a few of these lists floating around the Internet and really liked what they were all about. Especially in a house with kids. So I started working. Not diligently, but whenever something occurred to me, I would add it to the list. I kept the list on Evernote so it would be with me wherever I was.

Scene 2:
One night I was sitting on my couch looking around the living room. The staircase is a dominant feature of that room because it is right smack in the middle of it. All our walls are painted different colors, but the stairs are white wood. It occurred to me that I needed to do something creative with the stairs. I mean, here it was, a giant canvas right in the middle of the living room and it was just plain white. So I added that to my ever-present, ever-growing list of “things to think about and do someday.”

Act 2 —

Scene 1:
The house rules were coming along nicely, but there was a problem: Where was I going to put it once it was finished? We don’t have a ton of walls in our house (years ago previous owners knocked down most of the walls turning a boxy, compartmentalized, 1930’s era bungalow into an open, airy, modern feeling home. We love it, but we don’t have as many places to hang things as we might like.), and most of those walls were already exhibiting art, as we’d lived in the house for 6 years.

Scene 2:
One daydreamy afternoon, I’m thinking about our stairs, and what fun thing I could create for them, when suddenly it all comes together for me. The house rules! On the stairs! One rule per step. I counted the steps (13) and opened the house rules document. I had 9 rules. Surely I could come up with 4 more.

Act 3 —

Scene 1:
The stairs were, upon close inspection, pretty banged up. 6 years of a family of 4 on white stairs? Yeah. Might need a little paint. So that was the first part of the project. meanwhile, I was trying to figure out the best way to get the words on the stairs. I considered freehand painting, sharpie, and stencil painting, but I’m a fairly compulsive person (understatement), and I know that any imperfections would drive me crazy. Finally I decided on vinyl. Choosing the typeface and, more importantly, the color took a while — the stairs are surrounded by yellow, sage green, red, and brown walls. What color would work with all of those? We ultimately decided on a steely blue grey. And practical, clean DIN for the font. I designed the words and had them printed at my favorite sign company for about $40.

Scene 2:
Got the vinyl back as one big sheet. While I cut the lines apart, I also stressed about how to apply them so they’d be straight and also spaced the same distance from the wall (remember — compulsive). I decided left-aligned would work better than centered, and would also look more modern.

Act 4 —

They came out about a million times better than I even hoped they would. And the kids love them. And I love them. And we have even invented a game around them. We frequently find our cat, Mark, hanging out in the middle of the stairs. So we decided he would choose our rule of the day. Any time someone walks by the steps and sees Mark there, they yell out the rule he’s sitting on: “Mark says WORK HARD!!” Or “Mark says, SHARE!”

Here’s the complete list of our house rules. I strongly encourage you to think about what yours would be, even if you don’t turn them into something on display. It’s pretty interesting to consider which behaviors are important enough to you and your family that you would classify them as “rules.”

Be Kind.
Laugh. A lot.
Work Hard.
Play Fair.
Tell the Truth.
Offer to Help.
Ask Nicely.
Hug and Kiss.
Say Thank You.
Respect Others.

Mail US


It’s time for another Step Away project! This time I took on the mailbox.

When we moved into our house 7 years ago, we inherited a plain, black mailbox mounted on the wall of the front porch. It wasn’t interesting, but it also wasn’t offensive. So it stayed, but with the plan that someday I wanted to make it better.

Now that I’m in the middle of my Step Away challenge, I decided the mailbox’s time had come. First thing I did was paint it. (So quickly that I didn’t even get a picture of the previously black mailbox. Oops.) We have a dark brown house with white trim, yellow window boxes, and a yellow door. Orange seemed to be the perfect counterpoint to all those colors and a few coats of spray paint made it so.


I wanted it to have a little more to it, though. And I’ve always loved vintage mailboxes that say “POST” or “LETTERS”, so I started gathering pictures. But I couldn’t help but feel like the whole “vintage mailbox” thing has been played out. So I was also trying hard to figure out something else I could do.


Then one day I  was looking at the last photo above. The one that says U.S. MAIL on the side. Suddenly the words flopped themselves in my mind and I saw something altogether new:



And voila! Our new mailbox!