WHY do you save kids' things?

As our children grow up (late teenagers, both), I find myself wondering WHY we save things. I know HOW to save--there's enough online about that--but I can no longer figure out WHY I'm saving things such as: picture books, art projects, little baby outfits, etc. Do I think my children will want these items? Or would they do better to be passed on while they're still usable and useful? The same goes for things like my wedding dress, or high school yearbooks, or a wedding gift that isn't our style. As time goes on, our garage and cabinets fill with things that we love or used to love--but we don't want our children to have to clean out when they are adults, nor be burdened with should they choose to become parents. 

Why do you save sentimental things? If you don't, how do you let go? 

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RE: WHY do you save kids' things? ()

Good question! I save some of these things but get rid of even more. I have enjoyed the looking at the examples of these types of things from my own childhood that my mother saved. I especially liked having some of my now out-of-print picture books to read to my kids. But my mom didn’t save most of my things, and neither do I. It’s more like a tiny sampling as a little window to the past. For toys, I only save the most sentimental and unique and/or the most likely to hold up.  For example, I put away my son’s wooden Thomas trains, and some of my daughter’s American Girl dolls and clothes that my mom sewed for them. Those will be fun for her to look at years from now.  But we just gave away all the Legos, we gave away the playmobil a long time ago, we gave away the wooden blocks, etc.  I save only the most sentimental clothes, very few, mostly handmade.  We save the most books of all those things. Already, my daughter pulls them out to bring to babysitting jobs. I think they are a great connection to their earlier years, and they will be fun to pass on. That said, my kids have generous grandparents, so they had so many hundreds of kids books over the years that we have given away boxes and boxes and piles of them over time and still have several bookshelves of them in our attic.  I try to only save the best or most unusual ones. 

RE: WHY do you save kids' things? ()

Great topic. Our daughters are in their early twenties. We are lucky to have a full basement (or unlucky, because it's now full of stuff!) and I've just been thinking about this same question. I think there are only two reasons to save kid things:

(1) THEY still want the item but don't have room for it in their lives right now.  These are usually not things that the kid created themselves. Classic stories of parents throwing out valuable baseball cards, comic collections, etc.  Key is to keep checking with them as their feelings will change.

(2) YOU get joy from the item. These are usually things the kid created. Knowing that my daughters will have to throw it out when I'm gone (and that things in our basement by definition do not give me enough joy to have in my sight), I'm thinking I should just take pictures of the artwork, the science projects, the cute gifts they've made for me, etc., and let them all go. Not that I've done this yet, mind you!  But saying it here, thanks to you, might help me take the plunge. 

I think you're also seeing a third reason -  (3) items the kid might want when they become parents. We have a handmade/antique crib in that category but for clothes/shoes etc., I gave those away to other new parents as soon as my kid grew out of them.  First tried to hold back some of my favorites and then realized there was no point in keeping them. 

RE: WHY do you save kids' things? ()

I am so glad you are asking this question. My parents fall under the category of save everything. It was crazy when my kids visited one day and my mom brought out a box of things I made when I was in kindergarten. It was an interesting box to look through, but with my encouragement, it was discarded after that trip down memory lane. And, while it was interesting, it was more horrifying. My kids were not at all interested. Things are just things. I have no problem repurposing gifts given to me when they don't suit. High school yearbooks I keep because sometimes I look stuff up in them--like is that my classmate I see on social media? I still have my wedding dress which I paid to preserve and enjoy looking at every few years. I think that's a big part of the decision--will it give you joy or is it just taking up space. When my kids were little, I really didn't want to keep all that school stuff and clothes. Some heirlooms were kept, a few school art projects. I even framed some so they could go on the wall. But, the rest I took pictures of and happily recycled. The taking pictures part really helped make me feel confident about the recycling part. I had to clean out my grandparents' house when they passed on. You are right to worry about keeping too many things and it being a burden on future generations. Keep the best of the best (and only you can decide what is the best) but as soon as you are bursting at the seams or you can't enjoy your space anymore--it's time to whittle down. My mother said to me once that she wished she had as big of a house as I do. Nonsense. Her house is much bigger. It's just stuffed to the gills with stuff!! :) don't feel guilty. You won't miss those things. My in-laws a few years after I married their son made him clean out all his memorabilia from their house--don't let that happen either. If it's not important enough for him to keep himself, then they should not have to keep it. AND, don't pay for storage for these things--that's money down the drain!

RE: WHY do you save kids' things? ()

I have teenagers as well, and think about this a lot. I try to collaborate with my kids about what to keep for them, and we try to not let it outgrow certain bounds. There is a file box of schoolwork and artwork. Not much is added at this point (with a 7th and 9th grader), so that's self-limiting. They have one large box of "sentimental textiles" each (containing mainly baby clothes that I'm attached to and kid clothes that they're attached to). We go through the box periodically and purge anything that no longer makes anyone go "awwww" (the "sparking joy" of sentimental things), so that we can keep it to the one box each. We did a sort/purge of kids books recently. Any "yes" vote (kid or adult) to keeping a book got it put back on the shelf; everything else was moved along to our local Little Free Library. We also did a big sort of all their toys and the stuff in their rooms recently. I let them take the lead on what to keep and what to get rid of (and I fought hard against my urges to keep anything they wanted to let go!). 

Where do we send all the things we purge? We take the good toys to Toy Go Round on Solano to consign. The rest we give away on our local Buy Nothing group. (You can find this group on Facebook. Buy Nothing has been an AWESOME way to find new homes for useful things, kid-related and not!)  If we can't give it away there, we put it out, neatly curated and labeled, to the curb. If it fails to go from the curb after a few days, I consider putting it in the Goodwill box (along with clothes, which I don't put out to the curb). Last step, if I really think something will be more of a burden than a blessing to Goodwill, I send it to the landfill. I hate to throw things in the trash, but it also doesn't make sense for me to carry said trash around my whole life (in my drawers and my garage) just to avoid sending it to the landfill.

Lastly, I try to keep keep the life course of items in mind whenever I consider acquiring new things, and I try to train my kids in this as well. I try to be mindful and discerning about buying or otherwise acquiring things (just because it's free, doesn't mean you have to take it!). Thankfully, as kids get older, there's a lot less cheap pieces of plastic "future trash" coming into our lives.

RE: WHY do you save kids' things? ()

What a wonderful consideration. We recently lost a family member and are in the process of going through his items. It is overwhelming and hard. Stuff does tend to accumulate! We had a cross country move when my son was 4 years old, which inspired massive purging. I got rid of so much stuff Upon arrival in California, we had a much smaller living space, and adopted a more minimalist lifestyle. I got very good at not keeping things and discovered that I don't need a lot of sentimental items. Things like artwork and school projects can be photographed and tossed. Create a digital album to keepsake those items. We have one large Rubbermaid bin that contains our most favorite baby and childhood items. So we do keep some things, but most get passed along. My son LOVED his trains so much, but instead of keeping them, we gave them to another family so that they could be used and loved again, rather than stored in a box gathering dust. Before the holidays, we always do big purge to clear out no longer useful items or toys. This tradition has helped my son enjoy giving things away, too. I have one box of photos, and a box for mementos/awards. My advice is to decide how much space you want to devote to sentimental items and then determine if what you are keeping currently fits into that space. Some people are more sentimental, or enjoy the tradition of passing items, like wedding gowns. What to keep is a very personal decision, guided by your values and what is important to you. Keep what is deeply meaningful to you and your family, and pass along the rest!

RE: WHY do you save kids' things? ()

This is a very good question, and one I've been asking myself a lot lately as I watch my elderly parents struggle to downsize and also as my kids are turning into teens. I keep things for a number of reasons: Some, like books (I gave away all but my favorites as my kids outgrew them), I hope I'll get to share with future grandkids. If that doesn't happen, I'll give away the books in the future. Other things, like art, and one or two favorite toys or outfits from each kid, I kept just to remind myself of those times. For those items, I set aside a specific box and am working to only keep what fits in that box. A lot of things I let go of - I took nice photos of things I wanted to remember, and passed the items on to friends or neighbors or through our local Facebook Buy Nothing group so I'd know they were going to people who would love and use them some more, which always helps me let go of things. I have enjoyed a few of the things my mom saved for me, so I think it is nice to have some mementos - but she saved way too much, so I'm trying to let that knowledge temper me as I decide what to keep for my own kids. As for gifts that aren't my style or things I don't love, or anything too damaged to be reused, those go out the door right away without a second thought.

RE: WHY do you save kids' things? ()

That is such a good question, and there must be hundreds of good answers to it. A few thoughts:

I doubt it has anything to do with being materialistic or whatever. I also remember feeling like a bit of an idiot when my 6-year-old daughter's most loved doll went missing before it turned up at a friend's house; I was actually close to panicked, both for her sake and mine, that the doll might have been lost for good. Certain objects just became precious to me, perhaps because they were precious to her or because they marked some important moment in her development.

(I also know people (my stepdaughter, for one) who easily part with their kids' stuff and aren't that attached to most of their own childhood toys and outfits.)

My bio-daughter, on the other hand, adores her stuff and has had to become stoic about selling/giving away her children's outplayed and outgrown things. She did buy nice, largish keepsake boxes for her girl and boy, and stows their very favorite toys and small items in them. I think this is a great idea, and should do the same myself, once she can bring herself to sort through the Pleasant Company dolls, the costume jewelry, the ridiculous number of Beanie Babies an honorary great-aunt gave her, etc. Over the years I've brought her some childhood clothes and toys for her children, and I carefully don't keep track of their eventual whereabouts.

As for my own possessions, I've started gradually giving away certain items to friends and good causes and projects. I found, to my relief, that once gone, I really don't miss or think about them; that I'd rather my hand-smocked childhood party dress went to a friend's granddaughter (the friend is a great crafter and appreciates nice work) than withered in the cedar chest.

(Yearbooks are easy; give them to your teenage children/grandchildren, who will giggle hysterically at you and your friends. I have my dad's 1920-22 high school yearbooks: fascinating stuff.)

RE: WHY do you save kids' things? ()

I grew up with a hoarder, so I am probably more cognizant of the harm that having stuff can create.  My mom saved all my baby clothes including my diapers.  They were useless by the time I had a child.  What a waste!   It took us two years to be able to clear her house enough that we could move my mom to a care facility.    It doesn't really matter why you want to save things, it is human nature to grab on to good memories whatever way we can, it was that way with my mom.  Each item was a memory for her and she basically downloaded her memories into objects.  She also had a hard time saying no to anything and was always afraid that people would come over and notice that whatever gift they had given her wouldn't be seen so she had to make sure that it was all available...etc.  Anyway, I keep "clearing out" an ongoing process. Obviously, I never keep outgrown clothes. I have two large plastic boxes of sentimental items each for my husband and I, and for my child who is now in college.  The boxes for my son are for me, art (no more than 3 per year),some school papers (also no more than 3 per year) chess trophies, martial arts belts.  He can decide later what to do with it.  He has his own stuff, but we go through it occasionally.  He tends to keep things that he can sell later if he wants to.  We used Toy Go Round a lot, both buying and selling, so he is familiar with things coming and going in his life.  It is kind of fun to relive memories that objects give us every now and then, and if you can involve your kids in the process, it is a good way to connect with them, find out what they can say goodbye to, what they have outgrown, and hopefully give them a way to deal with all the stuff that will come into their lives. I don't miss anything that I have gotten rid of.   I also keep a bag by the door for things to go to other people and charity, so that I keep the "giving to others" mentality in mind. Again, it is an ongoing process, and is actually calming for me to get rid of things I no longer use or want.  Now for all the photos...