My 5 year old daughter is completely obsessed with Disney’s Frozen and I have easily heard the song, “Let it Go!” sung in my home 10,000 times in the last 5 months. Long before my sweet Lila was transformed into her new alter-ego Elsa, the Ice Queen of Arendelle, this phrase was mine! And I’m taking it back. Letting go is such a huge part of organizing and decluttering. When working with clients, I find the letting go to be one of the most challenging dilemmas that they confront. As a mother, letting go can mean so much more than just letting go of an old pair of jeans you once loved or photos of an ex-boyfriend (though these aren’t always easy either). Letting go of your children’s things can sometimes be the most daunting task of all. Regularly I hear the following things come from the mouths of moms when decluttering, and the words are always laden with a heavy dose of maternal-guilt. “Oh, Johnny used to LOVE to play with that toy! What if he isn’t done with it yet?” or “Sarah wore that shirt every chance she got for her whole first year of preschool! It’s trashed and too small now, but I hate to donate it!” or “Lily drew such adorable little stick figure families back then. I can’t bear to throw out a single one!” I am a mother, I completely get it! Now that my children are in pre-K and 2nd grade, they have passed a lot of milestones, outgrown a lot of toys and clothes, and made millions of amazing, priceless memories along the way. And as hard as it is to reconcile with at times, time keeps moving, we march forward, with new memories to be made, new passions to be pursued. Holding on to the past can be a real hindrance for adults as they struggle to be present in their lives, or plan for their futures. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if you could embrace the art of being present and letting go, and then pass these skills on to your children?
I believe that there is a balance that can be achieved somewhere between stark minimalist and hoarding sentimentalist. Of course, I want to honor the years my children have lived and find ways to never forget. I do want to be able to later share with my children some morsels that they may forget about these early years, because this is their history, our history. But I have witnessed the other side of this coin when grandma dumps boxes upon boxes of old stuff she’s been saving since mommy was a little girl. More often than not there is more burden and guilt paid forward than true value. Will this be you in 20 years? Imagine if you could find a way to strike a balance. A box for each child filled with a couple of extra special items through the years, a few art portfolios whittled down to the best of the best and preserved nicely.
Our children are in a constant state of flux. From the time they enter our family onward, life is change and growth. Perhaps this is why we so desperately, as parents, cling to these snapshots in time, because as much as the minutes can seem like hours in the early years, the truth is that the time flies. There is nothing wrong with holding on to snippets of time through photos, through A FEW safely stored objects, through stories retold so many times to your child that she retells them like she might actually remember them happening. Our identities are shaped by these pictures and stories, and by the family and friends that touch our lives. But just as you would not continue to dress your 3 year old in 3 month onesies just because they are so darling, the need to hold on to a whole bin filled with said 3 month onesies is also unnecessary. Holding on to bin after bin of once used objects will at some point prove burdensome when you quickly max out on space. (Of course, exceptions for those still planning for more children.) You owe it to your children, and to yourself, to periodically let go of some items from the past and clear some space both physically and mentally to welcome the future. By holding on for dear life to the past, we unintentionally send a message to our kids that we fear the future. As our kids get a bit older and become more conscious of our holding on, they may resent our lack of openness to what the future holds, or perhaps they will simply model our behavior and hold on just as tightly.
There is a balance that can be achieved between honoring our histories and creating space (both outward and inward) for what the future holds. The following tips will help you take a balanced approach to preserving your child’s memories:
1. Be selective
2. Honor your keepsakes by either displaying them tastefully or storing them securely – or both.
3. Be clear in your mind about why said item is being selected. Perhaps someday you can share these decisive organizing skills with your children.
4. If the task is too daunting, contact me, Beth Deig at Sorted Nest, to help you!