What do you do with all the stuff your kids create? This is something I have struggled with for years with my four very creative children.

In this week’s episode, I’m sharing what has been working for us, our current problems and what we are doing about it, and a brand new framework my children and I came up with that is changing how we think about the things they (and I) make.

Here are some of the things that have been working for us for a while:

  1. Paper management: Each child has a small drawer where we can dump anything they made that is flat. Once the bin is full we go through it and take pictures of things they don’t want to forget and put things they really care about into their paper box (file folder with files from 0-18 years). Everything else gets thrown away.
  2. 3-Dimensional projects: Each child has a Maker Box where they can put the things they’ve made that they don’t want to get rid of because they still want to play with it or it’s particularly cool.
  3. They are keeping the majority of the projects in their bedrooms while I focus on decluttering the rest of the house and creating spaces that are super easy to reset and modeling getting rid of things. The kids desire to have their rooms match the rest of the house.

While these things have been working there are still some problems. The Maker Boxes do not contain the amount of stuff that they create and a one-in, one-out rule is pretty painful when they are things they love to play with. 

It’s also painful to have messy bedrooms that are hard to navigate and find things in.

While discussing these problems over breakfast, the kids and I created The Creation Cycle:

  1. You have an idea.
  2. You gather supplies.
  3. You make it.
  4. You take a picture of it (optional but sometimes they like to do this with their important creations)
  5. You put the supplies away.
  6. You enjoy it – either playing with it or displaying it.
  7. You find a home for it and put it away or throw it away.

As we discussed what this looks like in our home, the kids identified that we have two main points where we are having problems with the cycle.

  1. There is nearly zero friction between having an idea and getting supplies to start making something. While in some ways this is fantastic, it also means there are usually LOTS of things in the first few steps of the creating cycle and rarely are those things making it all around the loop.
  2. Our biggest drop-off spot is after step 3, which is why bedroom surfaces have piles and piles of things on them.

Right now, having a language to identify where the problems are happening and where every item in the room is in the Creation Cycle has been life-changing! 

It changes the questions we are asking and empowers the kids to make decisions about what we do with things next. And we’re getting very close to having even the bedroom easy to reset (one down, one to go).

As you think about creativity in your home, I’d love to know if this cycle fits into what is happening with your family as well. What’s working well? Where are the breakdowns happening?

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