Your kids may not be old enough to help out in the kitchen, but that won't stop them from leaving their mark. The bright lighting and cozy table countertops make the kitchen a perfect place for your young artist to paint, cut, and paste their way to becoming the next Bob Ross, leaving behind a sticky trail of dried macaroni and glitter for you. But in the off chance that you're not interested in following their newfound career quite so literally, follow these sensible and chaos-free steps to keep your kitchen neat.
Put supplies in containers that keep them orderly: multidrawer nuts-and-bolts boxes for beads and tiny craft fixings, flip-top kitchen canisters for crayons and markers.
Immortalize three-dimensional art -- which eats up space on table tops and shelves -- on film, then toss it, advises New Jersey organizer Deborah Gussoff.
Keep on top of the avalanche of artwork. Most experts suggest weeding often. Save your child's favorites in large portfolios from an art-supply store, which slip neatly out of sight behind dressers or under beds. Cynthia Ishimoto, of Visual Peace, an organizing service in San Jose, California, pares her two boys' annual output to a one-inch stack apiece. These go in marked folders in storage boxes, then on a garage shelf. "When my sons are eighteen," she says, "they'll each have one box."
Showcase artwork on a rotating basis. You can use narrow bands of corkboard to display current creations in hallways. Frances Strassman, a mother of five who runs More Than Order, in Berkeley, California, lets each child choose a picture of the week for exhibition.
Some quick fixes:
* File folders can hold paper and completed artwork -- each child can have a different color folder. Slip the folders into a file rack at each kid's height.
* A storage tower with see-through drawers allows for easy organizing of larger supplies: paper, paint jars, and clay. Wheels add portability.
* A clear shoe bag or lingerie organizer can hold pencils in one pocket, scissors in another, glitter tubes, glue, and so on.
* A tackle box or toolbox, with its display-style compartments, can hold tiny jars of paint, crayons, and markers.
* A metal cash box has nooks for beads, stamps, and crayons; closes securely; and can be carried anywhere.