I throw away my kids' art. By Bonnie Rochman for's "Bad Parent" column.


We are outside playing precariously close to the recycling bin when my son decides to rummage through it.

“Mama, you threw away my picture of a shark eating a diver in a chain-metal suit!”

Me, incredulous: “I did? I don’t know how that ended up in there. Thank you so much for rescuing it.”

So goeth the daily dilemma over juvenile objets d’art. My kids think anything with so much as a crayon scribble is worth saving. My house, meanwhile, is gasping for air beneath an avalanche of construction paper.

I had to choose how to handle this dilemma. The scenarios: One, save everything. Two, don’t. Given the options, I’ve chosen to be ruthless. If it doesn’t make me laugh or cry, it’s gotta go.

Being mom to small, copious artwork-generating kids is essentially incompatible with my Type-A personality. I thrive on paring things down, weeding things out. In my house, I have eight trash cans for five people. I am allergic to clutter, which is not surprising considering I grew up in a home where my father saved everything, up to and including store circulars . He piled them up in his car, on his desk, on the floor of his closet. Still does. In response, I became a neat freak. And until I became a mother, or at least until the kids hit preschool, I was able to maintain a minimalist household. But now? My kids generate a minimum of one piece of artwork a day, and that’s conservative. If I never trashed any of it, I’d be overrun by nearly 10,000 pieces of paper by the time they left elementary school. Recently, I realized it was time for “the talk.” No, not that talk.

Gently, I took my oldest aside. “Sweets, we can’t save everything.”

Surely he’d understand.

I was met by a blank stare.

“Why not?” he asked, and he was serious.

I stammered something about not enough storage space. He looked confused. I felt guilty.

Honesty was not working. So I changed gears, fine-tuning my stealth art-disposal skills. If I’m going to throw it away, I make sure it’s wedged securely under several layers of potentially camouflaging detritus. Coffee grounds are good. Likewise with the recycling bin. I never toss that worksheet full of big A’s and little a’s near the top of the pile. Inquisitive eyes can spot one of their outcasts anywhere. I bury it beneath the Sunday paper and layer in a healthy dose of junk mail just to be safe. I’ve considered investing in a shredder.

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