Week 11 of the Clever Girl Organizing Challenge: Decor and Decorations, yours AND the kids’!

It’s Week 11, and we’re starting the end of our Organizing Challenge — the next 6 weeks are going to be focusing more on what we fill in the living areas of our homes, the ways we entertain ourselves, and how we manage home administration. Each week will feel different, and will have meaningful reviews of what surrounds you and what you spend time on and with in your home.  We’re going to start this week with items in our home that are supposed to be bringing beauty and joy, but sometimes, just become clutter. 

Clutter surrounds us sometimes with the items we’ve selected over time to help make our homes more attractive or enjoyable — knickknacks, artwork, tchotckes, and various “this would look nice” items around the place. Everything from picture frames on the wall to magnets on the fridge, the little doodads on the bookshelves and whatnots on the window sills. 

But, artwork this week also goes juuuuuuust a little bit further.  Brace yourself:  This week, one of our challenges is going through kid’s artwork (I know; many of you are saying, “hold me…”) 

Why are this challenge important?  A few reasons come to mind:

  1. Visual clutter can be a real distraction, for you and for others in your home.  Removing visual distractions can help concentration and focus.
  2. There’s more work dusting and caring for things that don’t necessarily add value and happiness to your life
  3. In the case of kids artwork, we all know this is a quantity of items that come into your home in huge volumes for a set amount of years in your child’s life, and unless you truly do not care one bit about the amount of storage space it takes in your life, and if you’re confident you’ll just hand it over, as is, to your child when s/he is a young adult, then it’s a collection, like any other, that requires curation, editing and maintenance. 


16 challenge

Week 11:  Decor and Decorations

Level 1 Challenge: Review all the decor and decorations you have around the house. This week, I want you to go around your home with an eagle eye, really taking a fresh look at every piece of decor and decorations around.  The pictures in the frames, the magnets on the fridge, the knick knacks every where.  Bring a laundry basket with you as you walk around the house, investigating what you’ve placed out for visual interest, including:

  • Decor:  lamps, throw rugs, decorative pillows, place mats / runners / doilies, candles
  • Art on the walls
  • Collections of knickknacks
  • Decorations in children’s rooms (are they still appropriate for their age?)
  • Pictures in frames, on the wall or standing up
  • Magnets on the fridge
  • Items on window sills and shelves
  • Coffee Table items 
  • And, so on….

How to tackle this one:  As you focus on items, room by room, ask yourself questions:

  • Would I find more peace in this room if it had less visual clutter?
  • Would I enjoy my life more if I had to do less dusting or care-taking of items?
  • Do I still love this item?  Do I love having it displayed?
  • Do I have other items on display that help evoke the same feeling and memory for me?
  • If I were to go shopping today, would I buy this for this room?
  • Am I keeping it PURELY because it was a gift, and I don’t want someone else to feel bad if I don’t have it displayed
  • If I’m keeping it purely for sentimental reasons, but don’t want it out any more, can I still own it without displaying it? 
  • Would someone else value having this more than I do today?
  • What would be missing in my life if I said goodbye to this item for good? 

If you walk through your home, like you’re an editor, removing the items that are less compelling to you today than the day you placed them there, think about NOT filling a new space back up with something, unless it is an item that truly brings you such happiness, and is not represented anywhere else in your home. 


Level 2 Challenge: Go through the collection you have of children’s artwork, in order to curate and edit what you keep and how you maintain it.  I know this one is one that many people dread, but knew was coming. You have artwork stashed, maybe in a few places, maybe well taken care of, maybe not.  At first, it seemed reasonable to save everything… and, at the time each item was created, it represented the MOST progress and development to date. Then, it’s possible your child eventually started attaching some emotional connection to whether you kept the item or not, and it became a lot less about the artwork, and more about your concern for your child’s esteem and self-worth. You decided “I’d rather not upset her, so, I’m just going to put this on that pile over there….” or “I want to hold onto these memories forever, so I’m just going to put this on that pile over there…” Then that pile got bigger and bigger, and you moved it to another room, and then started a new pile. Deep down, you know it’s time to tackle those piles and make some decisions about what to keep and what to part with, once and for all, and set up new systems for any artwork that continues to come into the house from now on. 

How to tackle this one:  
There are going to be ones you just can’t possibly part with. I know. Perhaps before you start to look through the items, you start to set yourself some boundaries.  Some examples:

  • “I will keep xx items per year of life, and choose the ones that I think are the most interesting to me, the ones that show significant development milestones of importance, or the ones I think my child would most enjoy looking back on.”
  • “I have containers that are 6″ deep. When they are full, I can save no more. If I want to save more, I need to let some go.”
  • “Each week in the future, I will be selective, keeping only 1 or 2 of what comes home each week or month, or, if I get a portfolio from school at the end of the year, keeping only 10%, the best of the year.” 

If you’re setting rules for yourself before getting emotionally connected with the artwork as you go through it, you will have given yourself some criteria to fall back on and stick to in the process. 

Once you’ve set your rules, it’s time to make another key decision:  Am I going through the artwork on my own, or is my child able to go through this process with me? Is s/he old enough to make critical decisions, or is this a good learning opportunity for me to guide him or her through critical thinking and prioritization?  No matter what your answer, it’s time to dive in!

You’re going to need to be tough here. Some are going to be easy: They just haven’t stood the test of time, and are ripped or faded. Some are going to be easy because they’re absolute favorites, and you’d never part with them (we’re talking a small amount here).  Then you’ll go through things like “this was his purple finger painting phase” or “this is when she just couldn’t stop drawing cats”.  Phase creations make it a little easy to look at as a set and pick your favorites.  

But through all the culling and making tough decisions, I want you to remember 2 things:
1) You are saving these for you, not for your child. Your child will likely not care about 99% of what you save for him or her
2) When you do throw items away, bury them deep deep deep into the garbage. Make the decision, and get them out of the house. 

Some things to think about, whether you’re keeping or culling: 

  • Check out apps that are designed to help you collect and manage digital images of artwork so you can part with the physical item, like Artkive and Keepy and Canvsly (here’s a review of all three)
  • Consider creating a book of the best and favorite images
  • Each week, gather the items that were created, and involve your child in choosing the very best creation of the week.  You can narrow it down again each month, or at the end of the school year. You and your child can create your own Brackets or American Idol competition for the best finalists of the year!
  • For the items you plan to keep, make sure the storage solutions you have are a good size and are water tight.
  • Have a gallery wall where items can be displayed and rotated. When they rotate out, you consider whether they are among the best to keep. (Lil’ Davinci Art Cabinet Frames are great for this)
  • When your children are young, you can turn some artwork into stationery for their thank you notes or gift tags for cards
  • Turn your favorites into postage stamps!
  • Donate it (yes, I’m serious!) to Kids Art for the Cure, where they take artwork and turn it into greeting cards, and profits from sale of note cards are donated to cancer research charities. 



How The Challenge Works:
As With Every Week, Your mission:

1) Take on Level 1, and if you’re feeling up to the challenge, Level 2. If you’ve already got those covered, identify a challenge for yourself that you know you should be tackling.

2) Whenever possible, take BEFORE and AFTER pictures. You don’t have to share them with anyone but yourself, but it is a fantastic way to (a) identify clutter that’s become invisible to you over time and (b) truly measure and appreciate your progress. 

3) We’re all about letting things go…  be critical about what you’re keeping and why you’re keeping it.  Always ask yourself these critical questions to help decide if you should hold onto items: 

  • Is using this item part of my current life or likely future?
  • If I didn’t have this item and needed it for some reason, is it easily replaced or borrowed?
  • Can someone else use this more than I seem to be using it now? 
  • Am I keeping it for a “maybe some day” or a “just in case” option? How likely is that situation? And am I keeping more in that category than I should, given the space constraints I have?
  • Is it part of my past, and holding onto it reminds me of a former self? And am I keeping more in that category than I should, given the space constraints I have?

4) Stay FOCUSED on this task.  Know what FINISHED looks like, and don’t get distracted by other projects or areas of attention that cross your path while you’re on this assignment.  

5) Have a plan on where things will go — give away to someone you know, donate, sell, recycle or trash.  This Challenge isn’t just about creating new piles that don’t have a future!

6) Work in manageable chunks of time and energy. It’s a marathon, not a sprint! 

7) Celebrate and reward yourself for a job well done!




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