Drowning in stuff — how to let it go?

I will admit it.  I’m somewhat of a pack rat.  It’s not that I save any old thing, just things that are meaningful to me.  And for the past 8 years that includes kid stuff.  For them, I save almost everything.

When it was just one or two kids, it was harmless enough.  I’d save stuff like a bib my aunt embroidered for Mitzi, Cooper’s first soft baseball, baptism gifts, mementos from birthday parties.  And I even got a lot of it into scrapbooks.

But then life kicked in, and brought two more kids, and suddenly I was inundated with more stuff than I thought possible.  I’ve gathered items for Ellie and Joanna’s someday-scrapbooks (yeah, who has time for that?!), put aside drawings and crafts and schoolwork and special tokens from beloved relatives.

And with bigger kids comes more schoolwork.  I can’t bear to throw any of it away.  As it comes in, I pile it into my “to-be-filed” section of my office, which is actually a floor space between a wicker trunk and bookshelf.  Today, that pile towers over 2 feet.  I definitely need a secretary.

But I remember how fun it was to look back through my own stuff that my mom saved — it still is, frankly, even seeing those report cards that always glared a C in handwriting.  And I know that it makes Ray a little sad that he has virtually nothing from his own youth.

So I save it all for the kids.  Someday it will collect dust in their own attics.

I know I have to pick and choose — I’m running out of space and we’re just getting started!  But how?  How do parents out there choose what, if anything, to save?  How many crayon drawings by your 3 year old (and we know how many reams a preschooler can color in one rainy afternoon)?  How many spelling tests?  How many shakily-written stories with stick figure illustrations?

I need help!  If my sister were nearby she’d come over and give me some tough love about decluttering.   My mom, having spent many days cleaning out her own parents’ attic, would probably join in.

Sentimentality is wonderful, helping us to remember the past and those with whom we’ve shared it.  But when is it too much?

Please, give me advice!

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4 thoughts on “Drowning in stuff — how to let it go?

  1. Scan everything you can into your computer and then transfer it a a storage device. Throw the originals away.

    If you have used it in a year throw it out.

    If you still want to save it; pack it up in sturdy boxes and send to your mother – in law to save for you. Perhaps your aunts will take some.????

    Or sell it all on ebay.

    Good Luck

  2. ah…we are cut from the same cloth as your grandmother. it is very hard to part with things that we made by or given to your children. Grandma used to say, I wouldn’t have all this stuff if my children didn’t give me stuff. it is wonderful to look back and remember. Of course, you must save things. it’s their history! But be selective. Be creative. I have taken to taking pictures of art by the kids and keeping the memory without actually keeping every scrap of paper they give. Likewise, have a basket for each for the entire school year. at the end of the year, choose the most important and get rid of the rest. i know it’s hard. but the new rule around here is, when something comes in, something has to go out. Just remember, when we cleaned out Grandma’s house we must have found 10 tons of paper that wasn’t important, like the envelopes from cards and shopping receipts! Be brave, be grown up, you can do it! xo

  3. I have the same problem with three kids. I bought three clear plastic storage bins, one for each child. I put their report cards, cards and some art and school papers in there. I obviously can’t put in everything so I pick and choose about five things a year from each. The others ( I try to remember) I photograph! I sometimes even put four paintings in one photo. It saves space and you can look back at your leisure on the computer!

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