I just threw away a few Mother’s Day coupons my son made me a few years ago. A week or so before that, I found a stack of artwork that got caught up in the back of the junk drawer which made it impossible to open and close. And last summer when the kids were with their dad for a week, I went through their school papers and only kept a short stack of stories, poems, and sculptures from art class.
You can gasp in horror and think I am an awful mother for tossing things made by the hands of my precious children into the recycling bin, go for it. While I felt a bit nostalgic getting rid of some of these things, the moment left me as soon as I looked at my organized cupboards and closets.
I love and admire everything my kids make for me, but here’s the rub: I am a happier mom when every surface of our kitchen and living room isn’t plastered in their drawings. I don’t even keep all their report cards. And their first sippy cups and spoons were passed down as soon we could do without them.
I was happy to give their crib away to another family. I felt zero need to keep the doll house my daughter played with for five years, or the box of stuffed animals my children said they no longer wanted. I didn’t hesitate thinking, Oh, I might be sorry one day when they are longing to pet their Cabbage Patch Kids, or look at all the Barbies (who have all gotten really bad haircuts).
When I’m throwing things away and tossing them in bags and getting it out of my house, I feel myself coming to life. I can breathe. I can see clearly. My mind and eyes are settled and I am able to be present, focus on the now, and the feeling of my head not spinning because my kids’ possessions have taken over our house is glorious.
I can sit down and watch a movie with them without feeling distracted. I can actually find the first hand-knit sweater I made for my daughter because I don’t have ten plastic tubs of all the clothes I’ve kept for them. I don’t trip over their rocking horse when I’m digging out the Christmas decorations, which would totally lead to me stubbing my toe and swearing and starting off the season in a shitty mood.
How’s that for sentimental? By throwing away all the clutter I’m looking at the long game, knowing I am going to feel less ragey so my family benefits along the way.
Listen. I’m not a total heartless bitch. I do like to keep some of my kids’ stuff, like the book my son made about how to be a good pet owner (be still my beating heart), or the time I was painting up a storm and my daughter sat next to me and made some masterpieces of her own. Those things will stay with me forever and can take up as much space as they want.
There’s no way I am getting rid of my kids’ first outfits they wore home from the hospital, or my son’s favorite stuffed lion he slept with every night for the first ten years of his life, but I do have a limit.
If things are spilling out of closets and our keepsake drawer gets full and the spare bedroom closet begins to multiply glitter projects and I can’t get to the ice machine on the fridge because there’s too much crap being held on there with a magnet, I go to a bad place. We can’t have mama go to the bad place.
I need to have my area tidied up, and when you have children, their stuff can overtake your dwelling faster than you lose your temper trying to potty train. You need to stay on top of that shit.
There’s no need to keep every damn thing, or even almost every damn thing. My kids might get upset here and there if I’ve thrown something “special” away that they haven’t look at, touched, spoken about, in over a year, but they get over it in about two minutes.
I pay the mortgage, I do most of the cleaning, and I had the bleeding nipples while feeding them so having a clutter-free home is my prerogative. Keeping things kicking around isn’t my jam. But staying organized so I don’t go off the deep end trying to find a sweet note my child wrote me back before he grew into a super cool teenager who doesn’t acknowledge my existence definitely is.
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