battling the crafty debris

I am reorganizing my home at the moment to be more congruent with our lifestyle. I am not entirely sure what I mean by this activity, but I have noticed that all the things I think kids should have they don't anything to do with and all that they actually want to do drives me mad.

I'm looking for a middle ground.

Every few months I try something different with the craft and art supplies to make it both accessible and self contained.  My last go was at putting all of the supplies in clear jars on the a hutch desk in our kitchen.  Beautiful accessibility, terrible failure at mess control.

Creative kids are amazing. And crazy making. Smootch was overtired a few weeks back and, as usual in such a state, began to lose emotional control. Instead of crying in anger or frustration, Smootch began crying with happiness. Whiny happiness, but still happy, saying, 'I love my crafts, mom! I just love my crafts!'

And she does. She loves them all over the craft area, down to the floor, and spread around the surrounding rooms of the house. There is not a surface here that does not simultaneously hold a couple little bits of cut paper, a sequin, a string tied to a pipecleaner and then stuck to a bit of tape (these are everywhere, I don't know what they are) and an actual finished project on display.  Robots made from waterbottles and felt markers, pictures framed in taped together coloured pencils, trees made from fuzz balls, cinnamon sticks and cardboard. 

Smootch loves her paper, scissors and tape much more than any toy I could possibly provide. When she 'needs' a particular item for play she will always make one from pipe cleaners, paper and anything she can pull out of our three or four boxes of random craft things, like scrap fabric and empty fast food containers, all the while ignoring the actual realistic figure or playset modelled out of plastic or wood that was created exactly to supplement the play she is doing sitting right there beside her.

Why use the glamour dolls for dress up when you can draw your own on cardboard and then tape actual fabric on for clothes?

Why use the dollhouse and figurines when you can draw rooms in a box and use clothes pegs holding up paper heads as the people?

Why use the road set and metal cars when paper and strapped together Lincoln Logs will do?


And she is taking her brother right along with her.

I am not complaining. Really. I'm just amazed I find myself trying to find ways to slow down the children's creativity rather than encourage them. In a nutshell, I can't keep up with the mess. The scraps of paper, bits of wire, beads everywhere.  With homeschooling, the colder weather, and the recent onslaught on crafty materials in the house as our friends and family continue to downsize their own collections of clutter, I am swamped.

Time for another reorganization.  It helps me maintain my illusion of control.

I am going to keep the accessibility to crafty supplies high, since, as has been noted, Smootch loves her crafts and frankly I don't think she'd be very well with out them.  Perhaps I'm enabling here, but she doesn't notice when I 'store' all her toys in the basement but she can't go an hour without a pair of scissors and a role of scotch tape.

As for the detritus of the creative work, well, I think it's time to start enlisting the children's help a bit more.  Smootch is pretty good about putting her things away, but Birdie is still fairly random with his placement and will dump a jar of beads or box of crayons if he becomes frustrated.  I am thinking separate crafting zones, where they each have their own materials to be held responsible for, and a couple of child size brooms nearby so they can sweep up by themselves. 

Since there is no definitive activity that can be finished and then put away, Smootch and Birdie have integrated drawing and constructing with their whole day, I am instigating several moments during our day where tidying up is expected, such as before snacks or a bath (they love the bath, a good currency to hold them to doing something they are more reluctant to do).

My best defense right against the mess while still satisfying the children's need to create is bundling up and getting outside.  Smootch is never happier than when she is outdoors, climbing trees, and jumping death defying heights (I think sometimes she does these Evel Knievel leaps only to hear me scream because she always precedes a great jump from the top of shed with a 'Look at me mom!').  Plus, nature is the most accessible 'craft area' I can think of.  Everything needed to build fantastic fairy houses, beautiful figurines, vehicles and miniature landscapes capable of hosting any events is right there at their feet.  And when the play is done, it all stays where it is.

I can't think of a better organizational system. 



  1. Oh that is such wonderful information. I can never think of where to start with my kids.
    I want to help them be creative but I am always afraid to give them the tools.
    DS is almost 4 and DD is almost 2 so I guess now it's really time to start.
    Your ideas are a god send

  2. The bits of paper and creative detritus end up being like banana skins on our smooth floor and after a few days of mess I get a bit tetchy.

    Instead of moaning about the bits or ending up sweeping the whole lot into a pile and binning it (harder to do now with our more complicated waste recycling arrangements..) I have started sweeping all the odds and ends off the table and floor into a shoe box. After only a couple of days the box is brimming with crafty bits which have been used again already.

    So far so good!

  3. I am so glad I'm not the only person whose house is constantly covered in glitter, glue and paper! I must show my husband this post, lol. If you find a way to contain it please, please let me know!

    As an aside, I discovered your blog a few years ago when you put up your tutorial on making a peasant shirt. My how Smooch has grown! I also love hearing about your children's birthmothers. I am adopted and have always wished I was allowed to have BOTH my mothers in my life. You're children are truly blessed.

  4. Wonderful idea! Thanks for sharing, I can now start teaching my kids on how to be creative.

  5. Check out She lots of plans for storage and you can "build it yourself!"

  6. I'm in the same boat- crafty kids, and a little brother who multiplies the mess and isn't great about cleaning it up. And I have reacted the same way as you. But this last time that I re-organized it it seems to have really helped. For starts, they now keep 98% of their mess in the play room (which is nice, I'm not going to lie).

    I have a post on my blog showing how I have my kids' craft area organized at the moment.
    I also have ribbons tacked to the wall with clothes pins for them to hang their work, and a large box in the corner for older art that has been taken off the wall.

  7. Like others, we share this battle too. One really fun "activity" lately has been pulling out all my fabric stash and making "beds" with the pieces all over the house. Arghhhh. While it keeps my girl occupied, it drives me nuts.

    I'm going to take inspiration from your post, impose some fresh order, and try to head outside more often (my one thus-far neglected new year's resolution).

    Thank you Indietutes!!

  8. Egads! We are in a very similar place right now. We are trapped indoors and our craft mess has left us paralyzed. Come on Spring!

  9. Tell me about it. I get crazily excited when I see sticky tape on special but only buy one roll as it can be either great or terrible. My excitement doubles when it is great and I go back and buy a tonne of it. I sometimes think about not buying anymore toys as craft is all they do...all day. Hey at least they are independent thinkers. I am at the same point with the mess situation as I am starting to think that a 5 year old, a 4 year old and hey if I am lucky a 2 year old can help clean least a bit PLEASE. By the by kudos for the vegan lifestyle, we are raising our kids vegetarian and your post a while ago made me think we should cut back on the milk we drink and try a bit more soy. Cheers

  10. Great idea to have tidy up times, I too have problems controlling the creative mess taking over our house.

  11. I am unbelievably excited about stumbling across your blog. Your posts and pictures are truly inspiring. I recently started sewing and I can't wait to try a few of your patterns. So.. thanks for existing and having an awesome blog!

  12. Great ideas! It is so good for children to start thinking creatively at a young age.