About a week ago, my interest was peaked by part of a post in a comment section about clutter and minimalism, where it said: “I’m a grandparent as well. Trust me, grandchildren don’t want your kids’ 30 year old toys”. Incidentally, I talked to someone today about her home and her stuff, and suddenly she mentioned that our talk brought her thoughts to 25 year old boxes in her loft containing baby stuff she had stored there all that time ago. I guess she had ‘baby’ on her mind anyway, but our chat made that connection for her.
So what about those childhood memories that the parents keep? What is the reasoning behind keeping anything and everything? There are multiple elements at play here:
First of all, once a child has outgrown some of the baby clothes, the first pair of shoes, the cot, its first bed, etc. it does not really seem like a reasonable idea to get rid of those things. For one thing, another little one could be on its way now or later and it seems like a brilliant and financially sound idea to keep the things that have barely gotten any use anyway. So we box it up and put it away. Strike one.
In the best of worlds, after a while – when it becomes clear that no other child is going to join the family, it would be wise to review those things, but by then we either don’t bother (and long-term storage of not so useful stuff gets started) or we have forgotten already.
Secondly, at the time of boxing things up, we are still so enamoured with the little clothes, the detail, the memories of being given those things that we couldn’t possibly let go of these precious little things. Emotional attachment has set in and dug its claws into our subconscious. We think “It’ll be a wonderful reminder of our daughter’s first years!” and we box it up and put it away. Strike two.
Since we have boxed something that was dear to us in the first place, there never seems to be a need to review what we’ve got: it’s a time-capsule now of special times, and that’s where it ends.
And then there is the thought that the kid himself or herself might one day be desperately in need of those things, either for sentimental reasons (“this was my first doll!) or because they have kids of their own and those precious little clothes would come in handy and they would love the old toys. Wouldn’t it be wonderful for them to have this later in life? So we box it up and put it away. Strike three!
As mentioned above, these days everything has to be new, or at least not 25 years old: Which child wants their parents’ old childhood toys (they would be the only one playing with that particular toy while everyone else has a playstation)? Would the new parents actually be happy with their own child breaking something they cherished as a kid (or would they just be panicking about their possessions)? Would the new parents even remember those toys?
Children (with the exception of the very young, maybe) are subject to peer pressure from a young age, and being the only one who doesn’t have the latest stuff can be solitary and counterproductive for social integration with other kids – and which parent doesn’t want the best for their child?
As you can imagine, those three elements alone make up for a majority of items and boxes in our storage spaces, be they internal (a loft or garage or the cupboard under the stairs) or external (a self-storage unit with a price tag for the better part of our lives).
When it comes to such things as these (especially for items with a good level of sentimental attachment), it makes sense to follow a system that gives you some clues when you end up taking stock at some point: not only is it useful to clearly mark your storage containers with indications of their content, but also add a date when you packed this particular box. Add another date for when you want to review this (and note it in a long-term agenda, too, so you won’t forget five years down the line). Having those cornerstone dates will assist with maintenance.
Whenever you come across a box with a review date that is nearby or – worse – has passed already, take a moment and take a decision about the contents. I’m sure you can agree that keeping something for the next generation is not a good idea for the majority of the contents of each box, but don’t forget to make sure to keep some things that evoke memories – attention: be selective!
If your child has grown up already or nearing the end of their teenage years, maybe ask them if they want to keep SOME of those things for themselves but do not offer to keep the whole box as they obviously will want to keep everything (even though they will not have seen any of this for the best part of their lives)! Help them make choices and THEN store what they selected to ultimately take away with them. There’s no point to create a cemetery of childhood items to be kept at mom and dad’s house! Either they keep it themselves or it’s gone.
Of course, you are free to select keepsakes for yourself, but a similarly rigorous process has to be take place for you: if you select things that will only end up in a box again, what’s the point, really? Storing things just for the sake of storing them makes no sense at all.
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Hi, my name is Tilo Flache. My current mission: help my clients declutter mind and space.
This blog contains pointers for your journey towards a happier living experience.