A few years ago my dad sent me about a half dozen boxes filled with some of my things he had in storage. It wasn't anything from my recent past as I had not stayed with him, let alone lived with him since I was thirteen. This was a bunch of god-knows-what that had amassed over the time of mainly third through seventh grade, the time during which my folks tried to make their marriage work again only to realize that they were right the first time.
All I really cared about was my baseball cards. The cards were in rough shape, so I held onto what I deemed as the most valuable. What was in the rest of the boxes was a nightmare: old report cards with notes from teachers continuously agreeing that I was smart but unfocused, pictures of me happily dressed like an idiot thinking I looked cool and various art projects - the crappiest items I had produced over that five year span. There were drawings of crap (sometimes literally, I guess my interest in talking about fecal matter started at an early age), clay creations that served no purpose and ranged from coffee cups that couldn't hold a drop to ash trays that a cigarette couldn't have ever sat on and a ton of paper craft projects that looked like an origami monster got alcohol poisoning and spent those five years throwing up multi-colored vellum and craft paper.
I threw every bit of it out. This was not a trip down memory lane, as I didn't remember making 90% of it. All I could think was why the hell did my dad even keep this crap? What made him think I'd want it when I was in my 30's? I gave up trying to figure out what makes my dad tick a long time ago, but what this did teach me (aside from the fact that I was not the artistic person that I thought I was during those years) was that I wasn't going to save every line drawing, papier mache creation and clay crapper my boys create and bring home during their childhood.
I've been wrestling with this thought for a few months now. The Big Guy is in pre-pre-school twice a week and generally they do some sort of art project each day. He's in school from September to June, that works out to roughly 8 projects per month or 80 projects for the school year. Assuming there is a level of inflation over at least the next 3-4 years of let's say 7% per year, by then end of his first year in first grade we would have just over 400 pieces of his "art"not to mention what he'll produce on his own at home.
Where the hell am I supposed to put this stuff? We already have a Goodwill toy and clothing run we are about to do that I honestly think I am going to need a U-haul to get to the donation center. I need to store 400 art projects like I need another hole in my head. This isn't an issue about supporting my kids desire to express themselves. I consider myself somewhat of an artist. I take photographs. Do I keep every single shot I take? Hell no. For what? So I can look back 30 years from now and say to myself "yep, that was one crappy picture"? You can keep a few pieces and see your growth. Consider the Clif Notes version of your artistic vision over the years. No one wants to read the unabridged version.
Like I said, I've been wrestling with this thought for a few months, so we already have a ton of art stocked up from this school year. But over the past few months I have been tossing the majority of it in the trash. I keep the unique stuff, like when the Big Guy came home from his backup daycare with a drawing he said was me. That's the first time he has ever tried to draw me to my knowledge, so it meant something to me. Ironically it looked like a large blue ass (not the burro variety, we're talking hind quarters here). Otherwise the 8"x10" sheets of craft paper he brings home with one stamp on it or the millionth scribble sheet go in the trash. And I don't feel remotely bad about it.
I know some parents that keep every last bit of crap their kid makes. They are proud of this measure they have taken. Some have even made remarks like "it'll be fun when they can look at it when they grow up." Not likely. Others have even said "maybe if he/she grows up to be a great artist this'll be worth something...just kidding". No they aren't. Then when I tell them I have started tossing the majority of the Big Guy's art projects they look at me like I just told them that I water torture my kids for fun. I assure you that I don't do it for fun. I kid, I kid.
There is a documentary show on A&E called "Hoarders", which tells the story of various individuals who don't throw anything away, so much so that...well...just watch this clip. I've never actually watched a full episode as the images generally make me queasy, but I'll bet most of them started with a few art projects. And when the boys are in their 30s and want to know why all of their friends are opening box after box of childhood garbage and they only have one box, I'll just say the same thing my mom always said to me when I wanted to know why she did something with me: "just wait until you have kids".