newfreemovies.org Movie Review How to declutter your kids’ art and craft boxes

How to declutter your kids’ art and craft boxes


Welcome to Small Humans, an ongoing series at Mashable that looks at how to take care of – and deal with – the kids in your life. Because Dr. Spock is nice and all, but it’s 2019 and we have the entire internet to contend with.


The boxes come once a month, full of promise: of screen-free fun, education, bonding, clutter, trash, guilt. 

Mail order subscription crates are big business for all types of people – beauty junkies, home chefs, clothes horses, survivalists, and . Companies like Kiwi Co, Little Passports and position themselves as a solution for family members looking to buy the little people in their lives experiences rather than toys. Subscribers receive monthly crates teaching children of various ages hands-on activities and accompanying reading material ranging from toddler games to STEAM projects and fashion accessories.

My husband’s parents bought Kiwi Co crates for our 4 and 7-year-old kids, who beg to get into the crafts as soon as they come. The kids sit down with my husband at the kitchen counter for some quality time and create projects together. But after that, what’s to be done with the completed or semi-completed project? 

One of the lesser-known responsibilities of parenting is curation: figuring out what to do with the projects, drawings, crafts, and toys that come home from school, camp, daycare and people who love them. Most projects children work on are not easily recyclable and the Kiwi Co crates, while composed of nice materials, are not sturdy enough to donate for second use. 

Kids learning and having fun is good – waste and clutter less so. To attempt to find a happy medium, I spoke with some experts on different approaches to managing the tide of subscription boxes and crafts: 

Organize and upcycle:

Lara Housser, vice president of brand and strategy at Kiwi Co in San Jose, is sympathetic. “For me personally, with 3 kids who have been subscribers to all our lines for years, I have definitely found myself knee-deep in projects and materials.” In her house, if her kids have a half-done project, she transfers the materials and instructions to a Ziploc bag and puts it in the family “projects” drawer. 

“The project still looks appealing (and you can see what it’s inside) but is easier to store –and is an easy thing to grab and do if there are a few minutes of downtime,” Housser says, adding that the drawer is a “good response to ‘I’m bored.’”

For the bits and pieces that are often left over – like pom poms, marbles, paint brushes, scissors, hole punches – Housser also keeps a ‘Maker Drawer,’ where she throws toilet paper rolls and cardboard egg cartons and extra material from crates for her son. “The extra foam stickers, wood dowels or gears, are all great materials for his next invention.”

The boxes many crates arrive in, meanwhile, can be re-tooled before going into the recycling. They’re good for rounding up half-finished puzzle pieces or stickers or can be used for . 

“If it’s not recyclable, or compostable, it is trash. If it stays in your house or is on the curb, it is trash.”

What if you’re so far behind on boxes that you haven’t even opened them? See if a friend is willing to share your subscription with you and take the boxes off your hands every other month. Or, donate them. “We encourage giving unused Little Passports items to kids in need. The Salvation Army, Goodwill, hospitals, and doctors offices are great places to donate,” says Amy Norman, co-founder and co-CEO of Little Passports.

Curate and Dispose

Sometimes you just need to purge. Even though it’s tempting to throw your kids’ stuff away secretly to avoid a fight, New York-based organization expert Andrew Mellen says it’s important to get your kids in on the process and to teach them, he says, “’We don’t keep everything just because we touched it.’ Because when everything is precious, nothing’s precious.” Mellen recommends that parents who are overloaded with completed crafts lay out all the projects and task children with choosing their three favorites to display and disposing or donating the rest. This exhibit can be reviewed once a quarter. 

“My kids do a ton of crafts, so we have a 48-hour rule,” says writer Megan Zander of her approach to crate crates. “If they haven’t touched it in 48 hours, I tell them it’s going into recycling while they’re at school. If they protest, they get one extra day to play. It helps keep my floors from becoming a sea of cardboard and tape.”

With craft crates, many projects do go in the trash: Even when crate companies use green materials or provide tips on , once materials are blended together, the .  If it makes you cringe to throw completed projects away, Zero Waste Home author Bea Johnson posits that you’re not helping the environment just because you feel too guilty to throw a forgotten craft away. “If it’s not recyclable, or compostable, it is trash. If it stays in your house or is on the curb, it is trash.” She says that de-cluttering is often criticized for creating waste, but she doesn’t agree.  “Keeping it in your house does not make it useful if you’re not using it.”

Manda Aufochs Gillespie is a British Columbia-based author and expert for parents looking to live more sustainable lives. She says that parents need to pick their battles and she comes down in favor or what most engages children. “We have a lot of good research that kids need to play. The more open ended and creative that play, the more ” She says if parents want to reduce harm to the planet, “It’s important to keep it in perspective. When we look at screen addiction and constant use of new phones and new computers, that waste is big, if you look at all the mining for those parts, of those things – not even look at the brain development side.” 

Just say no

The most extreme but effective means of addressing craft crate flotsam is by canceling it altogether. “Refuse,” (along with recycle, reduce, reuse, and rot [compost]) is one of the tenets of Mill Valley-based Johnson, whose annual family output can be stored in She (somehow) was able to successfully convince her sons to say no to the freebies that are often thrown at kids, from goodie bags at parties to toys at the dentist to giveaways at street fairs.  She says she explained to them, “If you say no on the spot you won’t have to cry later, and you won’t have to pick it up later.” 

However, craft crates often come implicitly with a quality-time or educational component, which can mean saying no to them, especially if they’re purchased as gifts by family members, difficult. 

Mellen recommends adult children looking to narrow a stream of gifts have a lighthearted conversation with family members. “A casual, ‘I love you; this stuff is not you,’” she says. The key to not negating a relative’s desire to celebrate your child, says Johnson, is to provide examples of alternatives. She told her children’s grandmother that they wanted to encourage “experience” gifts, which resulted in a gift certificate to a local ice cream shop for her 7 and 8-year-old sons. “It’s something that enforced being independent. They could to go the shop on their own, get their own ice cream with their own money. They were like, ‘Wow, this is awesome. This lasted way longer than a toy.’”





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