I Can't Handle Clutter––So Lots Of My Kids' Stuff Gets Donated (Or Trashed)

by Christine Organ
Scary Mommy and Westend61/Getty

I am a highly emotional person. I cry easily. My heart swells when I think about my kids when they were young or speculate on who they will be when they’re older. I legitimately enjoy who they are now.

But I am not sentimental.

I toss artwork in the trash. I don’t hang onto yearbooks or school graduation programs. I donate baby clothes and sports jerseys. I just don’t see the point in keeping any of this stuff. Heck, I tossed out my own school yearbooks more than a decade ago and have never regretted it.

But what if your kids want this stuff someday? people say. Well, that’s their call. I have one kid who loves to hoard mementos, another who tosses stuff just like me. To each their own. If they want to save things, I will gladly buy them a storage box. If they don’t use said storage box, I guess that means they didn’t really care about it – and into the trash it goes. Besides, my husband is the hold-on-to-all-the-mementos-type, so my kids do have one parent who hangs on to their trash – er, I mean, memorabilia.

Clutter feeds my anxiety and just thinking about the boxes of old papers in my kids’ closet makes me jittery. When it’s overflowing onto their bedroom floor and down the hallway and into the kitchen? Well, that makes me ragey AF and ain’t nobody need that.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I’m not sentimental about anything. It’s just that I’m ultra-selective about what I hang onto. My son’s blankie, which was like an extra appendage for a decade, for instance. Some cute pottery creations. Videos that bring a smile to my face more than a decade later. A small bag of baby clothes that are just so dang cute I can’t even.

Phil Hearing/Unsplash

I’m emotional too. Several years ago when I packed up my kids’ baby crib to pass on to another family member, I literally had to stop to have a good long cry about it. (And then I pressed on and sent it off.)

What I don’t get sentimental about? All the other stuff. Videos of my kids saying mamamamama or their 5th grade t-shirts signed by their classmates. Participation trophies they received from their second grade basketball team. Report cards from 1st grade or 4th grade or second semester of 7th grade. There is just SO. MUCH. STUFF.

Here’s the thing, even if you think I’m a cold-hearted monster for tossing things in the garbage and not getting sentimental about all these vestiges of childhood, remember: we all have to draw a line somewhere. It is impossible to keep the mountains of papers and artwork and souvenirs and certificates and projects. IMPOSSIBLE. So whether you want to acknowledge it or not, you draw the line somewhere too. Yours might just be different than mine.

It’s not like I’m not taking stock or relishing my kids’ childhood either. It’s just that instead of spending hours organizing their projects and report cards and sports medals, I spend a ton of time and energy storing mental images. I try to stay at present as possible when these things are happening. The important things, at least. I take a million mental photos and look back through them often. I talk about them and write about them and think back on them.

And then I let myself get emotional – even though I’m not sentimental.