Thoughts on Childhood Artwork

Michael Maman
3 min readJun 22, 2022

Can we find ways to let go of things more easily? When my grandfather passed away last year in September, my mom was tasked with clearing out his house and making tough choices what to keep, sell, and throw away. While I was visiting, I was able to help where I could. It seemed like each room housed a treasure trove of interesting books, gadgets, and memories from housing four generations of family on my mom’s side. What we found can take up space of several entries, but going through it all did make me revisit clutter in my own life.

As one example, while home, I was able to go through old artwork from grade school that mom saved. Here’s what made the cut to keep and what was tossed:

Paper mache of human organs: I based my decisions on what to keep and toss by how much effort it seemed went into each project. So for this one, I tossed it because it could have been done by anyone, and it’s very basic.

Onto subject#2: Plymoth Rock/Thanksgiving tribute. Interesting coloring choices. But the drawings are premade and I just filled in some colors with some squiggly lines. I don’t think I will miss this one.

The one below is interesting, but it’s so vague as to what it is. A greedy creature maybe by the caption “It’s mine.” Colors are dull, and I have no emotional attachment to it, so it was thrown away too.

Hey, where did these come from? I guess some academic work got mixed in with the artwork too. I don’t think spelling homework is worth keeping. It could be anyone’s, and our spelling naturally improves, so it was off to the recycle bin!

Ah, this one is interesting. There’s a distinct drawing style, and the artist was kind enough to label everything! I decided to keep this one because it shows an evolving art style that can be identified with myself. Other generic art projects that don’t show linking to myself I decided to get rid of.

What about this one?

Hm, well I guess the drawing style can be linked to me. But what is it? I have no idea, and it’s not worth the effort to try to imagine. The subject in the beach drawing is clearly defined, and funny to look at with all the labels. I’m pretty sure I let this one go.

It’s ok to let go of things that don’t have meaning even if you did them yourself. I guess that should be obvious, but as a parent, I guess there is a desire to save everything your child did as a memento. But if everything gets saved, then doesn’t the good stuff lose out with the mediocre? Why would I want the spelling homework or paper mache saved with the fun beach drawing?

At least for childhood artwork, having a value criteria allows us to quickly sort through what’s worth keeping and tossing. It will make the stuff you do end up keeping more special.