Helping these walls to talk (however imperfectly)

It may be because I am finally starting to come out of my post-baby fog.  It may be that it is Spring.

I’m sure that Pinterest has something to do with it.

I suppose it could simply be that the recent sunshine pouring through my windows revealed all the dust and the drab.

Whatever the reason, I’m feeling itchy to make some changes in my surroundings.

For one thing, these bare walls are closing in on me.  I’m home with four little children, three of them under the age of five.  It gets loud around here, friends. There are times when the noise is suffocatingly loud.

Visual reminders

Decorating has not been a priority the past seven years we have lived in this space.  And, while I take a lot of pictures, framing them or scrapbooking just has not happened.  (Some day I’ll have to explain to my children why the oldest has volumes of albums documenting her early years and the youngest three just have memory cards and my flickr account.)

My hands, and thoughts, have been quite full with other things.

But the bare walls are starting to get to me.

My motivation to make some changes is simple, really: I want some visual reminders of this wonderful, messy, happy, roller-coaster life with my family.  I need it where I can see it, even when (especially when?) what is happening around me isn’t the happy messy but the messy-messy. 

Taken at 11:11 am on 11/11/11

Yes, you do see black eyes, markers, and a certain blue hedgehog.

But first I hope you notice the smiles.

During those moments when the roar gets to be too much, I think it would help if I could gaze upon my walls and see the faces of my loved ones smiling back at me.  I believe it might be comforting, say, in the middle of the night when pacing the floor with a teething, tired, fussy baby, to look upon these walls and see the face of my baby broken wide into a grin from a recent happy day.

Yes, visual documentation of joyful moments might be just the sweet reminder I need when the three year old melts down that the days are long but the years are short.

And, maybe, just maybe … when the ten year old is rolling her eyes at me or believing her mother incredibly unfair, maybe she’ll look at those photos of that smiling, bald baby from ten years ago and notice the love on the face of the mother holding her in the pictures.  Hopefully she’ll remember that we are the same pair, aged just a decade, with the same love.

What does it say about me that my blog has more recent family photos on it than the walls in my home? Egad.

There will be no professional photography and family portrait session (as much as I would love it), no artwork rendering our family into something suitable for the mantle. My simple point and shoot camera and cell phone photos are what I’ve got to work with, alongside my meager shutterbug skills.

I’ve got to liven these walls up and coax them into speaking our family story by other means.

This mama is on a budget.

Instead, off into cyberspace my digital images have been flying (practically every time I stumble upon a coupon code for photo printing), ready to be turned into prints.  To the thrift store I’ve been cruising, digging for picture frames and artwork whose wrappings I can raid.  I’ve been eying the creations of my very own in-house artists and curating our family gallery.

I haven’t been worried about the “perfect” shot or if there are too many toys (or dirty dishes or dust bunnies) in the background of the pictures.  I just go through my images and pick the ones whose memories shout out to me the loudest, the ones where I can almost hear the giggles or feel the soft baby cheeks.

August 2011 – I’m so exhausted, but so happy on one of the best days of my life

My frames are  a motley crew of mismatched second-hand finds and some of my prints are in color and some are black and white.  Maybe some day I will spray paint all of the frames a matching color and create groupings like the ones I pin on Pinterest, but for now it just matters to me that I put the pictures up so we can enjoy them.

I already feel like the walls are easing up on their squeeze a bit and this place is starting to feel a little less drab (the sun went back behind the rainclouds so the dust is waiting patiently, as dust tends to do).

It has been some time coming and I’m so glad that I decided not to put it off any longer, waiting for the “perfect” timing, photograph, or financial moment.  Kids don’t slow their growth for time, budgets, or sentimental mothers.

Other stories our walls tell …

Our walls remember, yes, and sometimes they do more than tell stories.

They count down.

They remind.

Occasionally, as was the case recently with my five year old and a sharpie maker, the walls tattle-tell.

What stories do your walls tell?

How do you display your family photos? Any budget-friendly tips for preserving family memories, photo printing, or displaying family photos? I certainly would appreciate your tips and tricks on displaying family photos, especially on a budget.  And, if you know of an inexpensive, but worthwhile, online photography class or book, please spill the beans!  Thank you.

About Kara

Kara Fleck is the editor of Simple Kids. She is a small town mama, writer, knitter, bookworm, and hooligan. Kara lives in Indiana with her husband Christopher and their four children Jillian, Max, Lucy, and Amelia. You can find more of her writing at

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  1. I have a hard time getting photos up too. One super inexpensive idea I used in our last apartment was to take some thin rope and loosely hang it between two nails. Then I’d hang pictures on the rope with wooden clothespins. We didn’t have a dishwasher in that apartment so I hung some pictures right over the sink for some great family reminders when I was doing what felt like endless dishes.
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  2. I’m always guilt-ridden about the lack of printing photos. My youngest son is 10 and my granddaughter is almost two and I have tons of pictures on my computer, but only a few printed. It’s so sad. I need to commit to printing once a month…just the ones I love. Budget usually prevents me from doing that.
    Southern Gal´s latest post: The Gifts of the Father

  3. I recently discovered photo collages. I made a poster sized collage of our family hiking trips from last summer and hung it on my schoolroom walls. Last winter, when it seemed like the weather would never get better, it really cheered me up to see those great pictures and look forward to what my collage from this summer would look like. I agree with you that our children can look at the pictures later and realize how much we loved them. I know I love looking at the (very few) pictures I have of me with my parents.
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  4. I’m the same: I don’t scrapbook or decorate all too much. We have paintings and drawings up on our walls but not too many of family photos. I always blamed it on the fact that I could never take a decent photo of my kid worth hanging on the wall. We haven’t even taken him to a professional photographer.

    What *is* hanging on our walls though are a ton of my two year old’s paintings and crayon drawings. We also print out things he likes to see, such as the fountains we saw at a museum, or the exhibits he saw at the science center. We tape those pictures up with regular tape on the wall, at his eye level, and he loves talking about what he saw. We did this initially to get him to start talking, and he haven’t stopped. We print and rotate photos on a regular basis.
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    • “What *is* hanging on our walls though are a ton of my two year old’s paintings and crayon drawings. We also print out things he likes to see, such as the fountains we saw at a museum, or the exhibits he saw at the science center. We tape those pictures up with regular tape on the wall, at his eye level, and he loves talking about what he saw. We did this initially to get him to start talking, and he haven’t stopped. We print and rotate photos on a regular basis.” <— I LOVE that!

  5. What a great reminder. I am really bad about printing pictures and since I am also not in a permanent home, I tend to put that off. It is so important to have memories up, though.
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  6. thank you for the reminder. I am a professional portrait photographer — and I don’t have anything on my walls more recent than five years ago. A lot of life has happened in the last 5 years. MUST DISPLAY PHOTOGRAPHS. Thank you for the beautiful reminder.
    Annie´s latest post: I’m not ready.

  7. Kara, I’ve recently felt the same way about our walls! Here are some of the steps I’ve taken:
    1. We did have professional photos done this spring, just because I wanted an actual picture of the 4 of us that wasn’t taken by us. I have a CD of all the digital files so that I can make prints as inexpensively as I want (hello, 9 cents per 4×6 at Snapfish!).
    2. Costco has great prices on really big prints, like posters and even canvas. My favorite picture from our photo shoot has been blown up to 20×30 for only $8.99! I already have a frame that will fit it, so it’s on the way to hanging out above our fireplace. For only $8.99!
    3. I printed some of our favorite pictures in black & white – sometimes that keeps me from dwelling on the imperfections in a photo. I can focus on the great smiles and family memories, rather than the quality of the photo.
    4. We have a digital picture frame in our living room that flashes photos from our entire iPhoto library, changing every 45 seconds or so. My husband made it from an old laptop and a shadow box frame, but I think digital frames are pretty affordable these days – it’s a way to show of a TON of photos that can be forgotten.
    5. Don’t forget frames from IKEA! They’re cheap and they come in a range of sizes and colors. And sometimes I get frames from Aaron Brothers when they have their penny sale (buy a frame, get another for a penny), which is twice a year.
    6. In my mind I have plans to string up a metal wire (from IKEA) with clips to clip a bunch of pictures, just haven’t done it yet!

    So, there are some things we’ve done at our house and some ideas for places to get pictures and frames. Thanks for starting this important conversation!

    • Renee, thank you! These are some fantastic tips! I’m going to utilize them. I didn’t realize you could just get a disk of your professional portrait session (see how long it has been since we’ve had one? LOL) That is such a good idea. I’ll be looking into that further.

      I didn’t even think about Costco and we have a membership. Thank you!
      Kara´s latest post: 8 Ways to help your children respect other cultures

  8. For great photo tips, check out Nick Kelsh on You can get free tips or subscribe to more in-depth daily tips for $19.95/year. I’ve found his tips very easy to understand and to put into practice. I too am trying to bring our walls to life with our family photos. I just put up a collage this week. I’m enjoying it already. Good luck!


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