My daughter's preschool recently sent home information about a new program they were joining. This site, called Original Works, would allow parents to order our kids' amazing works of art in the form of coffee mugs, T-shirts, coasters, mouse pads, wall clocks -- you name it.

Very cool idea if you have a budding artist in the family.

But I'm familiar with the artist in question. We have quite a few of her pieces in our home, adorning our "Wall Galleries:"


Our "Window Gallery" ...


And what we like to tell guests is our "Floor Gallery" ...


I was curious how many T-shirts of THIS we might be able to order:


And this one clearly has "Wall Clock" written all over it:


And I was thinking that this one is definitely the Christmas card this year ...


... when the school sent home THIS as our first available masterpiece to order:


Exactly what time yesterday do they think I was born?

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We've thrown away many art projects done by a teenage "buddy"

When we send GL to an event where they assign him a one-on-one helper, we want the helper to help him navigate the social Bay of Sharks. He's usually not that interested in arts and crafts, and when he chooses to draw, his drawings have a characteristic preschool style. Why would we want an art project from somebody else's kid?

I have similar artwork...

drawn with black crayon on my good couch! I was so angry, but fortunately, was able to turn the cushion over. I'm just praying she doesn't draw on the clean side now!

Angry Potty

My favorite by far is the angry face at the potty. That basically sums up how I feel about potty training. Classic.

Why would you buy what you get for free every day? Why does that sound dirty?

Beautiful Artwork!

I think her art is good!

It's funny, because I'm going to blog about this on Thursday! My daughter's drawings generally look like someone two years younger than her drew them. But during the last month, she drew two pictures that were amazing! So I'm confused...does she have talent or doesn't she?

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After watching this week's episode of CSI, I'm pretty much convinced that I'm at least a “Level 2” hoarder.


"We found her! The body was buried under a pile of kids' art and old phone chargers."

I could kind of relate to the woman who sealed all her memories into labeled plastic bins, stacked them up and then couldn't get out the front door of her house. Except the part where she had a dead body in the house she didn't notice. Then again, I haven't gone through the guest room in a while ... the only way a guest is staying in there is if it's that lady from Clean House who sells all your crap in a yard sale while you're on vacation.

I have great admiration for those people whose homes are immaculate and free of clutter. Where do you put the unfiled receipts? The wonky crayon drawings of pumpkins? The seven different bottles of almost-used-up bug spray? The wires, chargers and cables that seem to spontaneously reproduce around each of our computers and TVs?

I learned my minor hoarding from my mom, who instilled in me an absolute loathing of waste. I can't stand to see things wasted. Not that I don't waste stuff. I just feel this tiny sense of shame about it whenever I throw something away rather than repair it. Of course, my mom has a great way of handling clutter: She brings it to my house.

I don't hoard everything. There are a some things, though, that I find it almost physically impossible to throw away:

Re-usable bags
I have a stunning collection of these from canvas “green” grocery bags to those clear zip-up plastic bags in which comforters and sheets are packaged. Sign up for a Books-A-Million discount card? They give you a bag. Enroll in Kindermusik again? They give you another bag. The only cure for this addiction we've found is moving. I refuse to move my collection to a new house, but in the past year we've lived here, I've collected about 100 of them.

Plastic containers
(Related to the reuseable bag fetish) I'm a little better about this than I used to be. I no longer collect Chinese take-out containers, which was something of a break-through.

In my mind's eye, I'm this amazing money-saving machine like the ones you see on Good Morning America who manage to get a year's groceries for seven dollars. In reality, I have a pile of out-of-date scraps of paper that represent way more time than I could ever earn back in savings.

At some point earlier this year, I was convinced that I desperately had to try the Lettuce Cups at some restaurant in another town and this $1 off coupon was gonna come in handy if we ever went there. I know this because the coupon lived on my refrigerator (see fridge magnets below) for more than six months.


I'm thinking that if the one on the right is raisins, then the one on the left is a picture of Billy eating raisins at Zoinks. (You thought I was kidding about the stump-grinding, didn't you?)

Fridge magnets
I don't have one of those interesting, purposeful collections. No, I have a variety of magnetized business cards from air conditioning repairmen, stump grinders and tree removal services that probably don't even exist any more. Because who needs a file cabinet when you can stick everything from old receipts to coupons to artwork (see Artwork below) to the fridge for everyone to see?

Electrical wires
There really isn't any use for all these old phone chargers I've collected, is there? I should point out that I do not currently own a working cell phone.

At some point, apparently, I'm planning to launch the world's largest and most pointless show of children's art. It will begin with the fingerpaint handprints I made with Billy when he was barely upright through Willow's crayon drawing of an “apple.” I have a couple pairs of “rainbow viewing binoculars” made of toilet paper rolls for the “sculpture” exhibit. I imagine the abstract "I Like Raisins" (black dots on white paper) will fetch a hefty sum. Let's get those phone bids going.

I think I must have been traumatized as a child by that cartoon where Rudolph visits the Island of Misfit toys. That and Toy Story has instilled in me an emotional connection to toys that is unreasonable in an adult. I just can't throw them away, even if they're broken. Even if they're so stupid or inexplicable that my children never play with them. There are toys I hang on to in the hopes that I will, at some point, find the rest of it: the missing puzzle piece, the ball that drops down the little chute, the arm to Batman. Poor little misfits. It's not your fault.

I never re-read a book. NEVER. Whenever I read a really good book, I immediately find someone to give it to. And the bad ones? I keep, for some reason. The collecting of terrible fiction seems to be a bit of a compulsion of mine. I have to line up ever bad novel I've ever read on the shelf rather than take it to Goodwill and give it the opportunity to bore somebody else.

I once told an old boyfriend, "I can't throw this away. I've had it since I was in high school." After a long moment, my much more fashion-conscious boyfriend responded, "You do realize, don't you, that that is NOT a reason to wear something?" No. I don't.

I realize intellectually that I'm equating things with memories. I realize intellectually that throwing away, donating or re-gifting a thing doesn't eliminate all its related memories from my mind. I realize intellectually that I will never find a use for all these plastic bags.

But my heart still feels a tug every time I load up a box of old stuffed animals for Goodwill or even throw away the hand-written receipt (stuck to the fridge for several months) from the first day we signed Billy up for gymnastics.

I've made a commitment, though. I'm cleaning out that guest room, so that we can actually have some guests and make new memories. Get ready mom: I've got a couple dozen boxes of "old memories" coming to your house.

Reader Comments

too funny

Too funny! I'm on a decluttering mission this year and have realised there are only 2 months left and I'm nowhere near my goal. Sigh.
One thing for the art work was to create a website where it is all stored. Thing is I have boxes of hard copies in the attic, so that didn't exactly work ...

I Have Everything You Have!

Hi Amanda:

I think you might be a younger version of me! I have everything you have...when Jim and I moved in together two years ago, we filled TWO 26-foot U-Hauls with just boxes of stuff (furniture went in a separate truck)'s a good thing we have a big house! He has at least three boxes of assorted cables for computers, phones, etc.! I have boxes of the kids' artwork, and stuff my mom saved from my own childhood. I have every ticket/programme from every show I've ever been to. I realized on Monday that the sweatshirt I threw on for going out to the garden was 16 years old! I don't keep bad books, only good ones. However, my cookbook collection alone filled several boxes!


Island of Misfit Toys

Oh, I'm with you on The Island of Misfit Toys! That cartoon made me weep as a child. Meanwhile, my kids can't get enough of it.

I hate to say it, Amanda, but you and your reusable bags sound downright organized. And? Glad to hear your refrigerator looks exactly like ours. At least we're not alone.

My Halloween House of Hoarders

@BigDaddy: I forgot to add boxes to the list. I get it, my friend, I really do. How could a box NOT be useful at some unknown date in the future?

@Lynn: You're the best! Thanks :-) Maybe if we keep interacting, some of your non-hoardiness (that word sounds dirty, doesn't it?) will rub off on me.

@Mary: What a great idea with the Paperback Swap! I'll definitely let them know that you sent me ... Thanks!

@Cheryl: I didn't submit my name until mid-summer, but when I accepted the gig moderating the Spring Chicken forum, they offered to bump us "Tribe Leaders" up in the line-up. That's one thing I really like about SITS: They offer lots of opportunities to contribute and they try to come up with creative ideas for rewarding people. I didn't do the tribe thing for the SITS Day bump; I really wanted to find my special needs moms "tribe," but the SITS Day is an AWESOME reward :-)


Congrats on your SITS Day! How cool that you know this far in advance. Just out of nosiness, when did you submit your blog to them? I just did research to see when I did, and I was surprised to find out it wasn't until the end of April!

I HAVE had problems posting here! It won't let me like to my XXXXXXXX website. HAHA.

Seriously, I have had problems about 3 times this past week. I think one time I didn't even post anything.

My husband is a hoarder. I think he has a serious problem. However, one of his very expensive stereo speakers broke last night. He was able to find his invoice and his warranty info for it--even though he bought it almost 10 years ago. As it turns out, the warranty is going to expire in about a month. That never happens--it usually expires a month ago! Anyway, because of his pack-rat ways, we're actually going to save serious money on this repair. Hoarding is not always bad!

Paperback Swap

I'm a recovering pack rat. I determined about a year back that I would have nothing in my home that I didn't consider to be beautiful or useful. I'm not a 100% success - but I'm a lot better. One helpful question: "Have I used this / worn it within the past year? No? Donate / Toss." It's hard to toss things especially - but there are times when it's gotta be done.
For the books - I love Paperback Swap. (Use the link I provided so I get credit for the referral!) It's a credit-based system -- list your bad fictions, some poor sap requests them, and when they confirm it's been received, you get a credit to pick out a book you want. They've got all genres, including kids' books.

everything checks out here comrade

...all is well with posting comments.


How cool!!! Finally someone I know and don't have to pretend to like!! That is so awesome...I'm marking my calendar.

As for the hoarding, I am your polar opposite. Love to throw things away. I hate stuff. I wonder what that says about me vs. you...? I collect plastic bags but only so that I can take them in one go to the recycle bin. I have a purposeful refrigerator magnet collection. But that's about as close as I come to relating to this. OK, I'm going to check out your security thingy now....

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Billy started drawing this week. Not just scribbling. Not just stabbing the paper with a pen. Not peeling the paper from the crayons or breaking them or, worse yet, eating them (though we haven't seen that last one in a while, thankfully).


No, he's been drawing. People. People with hair. People with beards. People with arms and legs. And always with smiles.

He and I have a deal. If he goes to the potty, he can watch "Baby Signing Time" while I load the dishwasher. But he has to draw while he watches the TV in his play room. The first time I explained this deal to him, I set up a piece of art paper on his easel (Ms. Stacee, his occupational therapist at school, explained to me that autistic children find it easier to draw on a vertical surface), turned on "Baby Signing Time," and handed him an orange crayon.

"Draw what you see on TV!" I said to him with a bright smile, trying to make it sound like the most fun activity ever.

He gave me a weird look, and I fully expected to come back into the room and find him peeling the crayon while staring transfixed at the TV. I had to get the kitchen cleaned up, though, because we had guests coming so I left him with it.

When I came back into the room, I was totally shocked that he had followed my instructions. To the letter. The entire surface of the TV screen was orange. And he had his eyeball half a millimeter from the screen, trying desperately to see his program through the crayon.

He had drawn what he saw on TV. On the TV.

And he looked up at me like, "Hey, don't look at me. This was YOUR big idea." I couldn't help but laugh.

Over the past few weeks, when he gets his TV time, he's humored me by making a few half-hearted squiggles on the paper. But the big breakthrough moment came when I wasn't looking.

I copied a move that I saw our private occupational therapist, Kathy Merydith, do during one of her sessions with him: I drew three circles on the paper and said, "Now, can you give the balloons faces?" Then I trotted off to the kitchen to get dinner started and left him to it.

Fifteen minutes later, I realized it was way too quiet in the play room. I ducked my head, expecting to catch him in the act of filling the puppets with Moon Sand or running over Willow's baby doll with his fire truck.

But no. He was still drawing. The three "balloons" now had happy faces, green beards and LEGS! With feet! The cutest little "Ls" emerged from the bottom of each head. And a crooked smile adorned each face, along with both eyes and a nose. I called Dave to tell him the news and he confessed that he was more happy and shocked at that moment than he had been when Willow took her first steps. Willow, who already says two dozen words and colors as well as Billy did just two months ago, will probably always have to work that much harder to amaze us. I know that's not great parenting, and the subject of another blog could probably be how to make the "normal" sibling of a special needs child feel "special" herself, so when I figure that out, maybe I'll write about it.

Anyway, over dinner, we all admired Billy's picture again and dubbed it "Three Happy Guys." Over breakfast the next morning, he reached for his sketch pad and furiously filled it with drawing after drawing, which we named "A Pear Takes a Walk," "Clown Face" and "Daddy Needs a Shave."

Of course, the first thing I did was go out and buy him every art supply known to man. I have sketch books of every size, crayons of every texture, shape, color, and surface, including the bath tub, and a variety of paints.

This morning, he sat down with his Pop-Tart and sketch book and began to draw carefully and slowly. First, there is a giant head. Often, this fills most of the available space. Then he made two dashes for the eyes and added a crooked smile and a round nose. "Where are his legs?" I asked. He thought for a second and then added the miniature "Ls" emerging from Mr. Big Head. Then he hesitated, put crayon back to paper and made straight lines emerge from both sides of the head. "Are those arms?" I asked.

"Arms!" he agreed. Then, "He's sleeping!"

You could have knocked me over with a feather. That was the first time he narrated or explained what he was drawing for me.

"Sleeping?" I just repeated.

"Needs a blankie!" he shouted back to me.

"Well, let's draw him a blankie!" I shouted back. Billy grabbed a yellow crayo and drew a roundish blob on the front of Mr. Big Head.

"Needs a pillow!" he shouted again. Intonation, as you might have guessed, could still use some work. While he's starting to communicate great, Billy tends to shout everything as though he's calling a Bingo game. But I was so excited I was shouting too.

We continued like this, with him adding a pillow, "covers," which is apparently different from "blankie," and "Brown Bear" to the bedroom scene. Then he abruptly decided that "Billy Goes to Sleep" was a completed masterpiece and asked very politely, "Can I be excused?" And he ran off to stage a race between Lightning McQueen and Batman until it was time to leave for school.

I just couldn't stop staring at the picture. After he left for school, I Googled "drawing" and "child development" and found this link:

And this description seems to suggest that Billy is right on target, age-appropriate, with his drawing.

That chart also suggested that kids at this age start to work out problems with their drawings, and I wondered if there was anything going on at night that was bothering Billy. He has several “brown bears” that sleep with him and two pillows, and he has plenty of “covers,” so all I can figure is that maybe he wants a yellow blanket. Or to grow a beard.

I love Billy's drawings. And as I looked through the pages and pages that he has filled in his sketch book the last few days I was struck by how all the faces are smiling. I know that's not unusual in children's drawings, but I think it reflects something beautiful about a child's soul. As Picasso said, “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.” I hope Billy never loses that part of himself that sees smiling faces everywhere.

Reader Comments

Child development

Fascinating chart about child development and art but I am a 30 year old mother and I couldn't not do what they show a 8 year old drawing!

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