Does anyone else feel like they are drowning in stuff? I am constantly swimming through a sea of toys and clothing that my children have outgrown but I just can’t bring myself to let go.
Currently, my own personal home edit is at a standstill because I am stuck somewhere between wanting to Marie Kondo purge every single thing from my home and the paralyzing fear that I might get rid of something that 20 years from now, when my babies are grown, I wish I had kept.
The problem is that I have no idea what I am going to want in 5, 10, 20, 30 years from now. I’m not her yet. What am I going to cherish? What will be junk? What will I want to pass on to my sons and their children?
I, myself, do not have the answers so instead of continuing to let the current pull me under, I looked to other moms for sage advice. I polled moms of grown children to see what they suggest other moms keep, (and toss) when it comes to their children’s possessions.
What Parents Should Keep for Sentimental Value
I asked my group of expert moms: “What did you keep from your kid(s) childhood that you cherish?”
Personalized Writing and Art
- Creative stories
- Notes and letters to/from family members
- Diaries and journals
- A couple special pieces of art
- One or two pieces of schoolwork per year
Items that Show Growth
- First coming-home outfit and blanket
- A few measurement items like handprints, footprints, and growth charts
- A handful of nice or memorable childhood and baby outfits
Other Sentimental Items
- One or two extra special childhood stuffed animals
- Videos (many of the moms polled wished they had been able to film more)
- Pictures, both professional and casual
Items Parents Should Keep to Pass on to Their Grown Children and Grandchildren
I asked my group of expert moms: “Is there anything from your kid(s) that you saved and passed on to your grandchildren? Anything that has been a family heirloom?”
Iconic Toys that stand the test of time
- American Girl Dolls
- Matchbox Cars
- Wooden Blocks/ Lincoln logs
- Little People Sets
- Dress-up clothes
- A few books in good shape
- Anything from previous generations
- Rocking horses
- Rocking chairs
- Baby doll cradles
- Special clothing pieces
Official School Items
- High School and College Diplomas
- Letter jackets and class rings
Items Parents should Donate, Sell, or Toss
I asked my group of expert moms: “What did you keep that just ended up being unused/clutter?”
- Most toys
- Most clothing
- Extra baby blankets
- Baby and kid gear
- Birthday and special occasion cards (unless they have a personalized heartfelt message)
- Homework: workbooks, projects, busywork
- Trophies and ribbons (unless your kid is likely headed professional)
- Almost all art pieces
So now that I know what to keep (and toss), what is the best way to store this stuff for 20 years?
Storage Tips and Tricks
“Artkive is AMAZING. High quality books of my kids’ artwork. They also have an app to save along the way and so you can recycle along the way!” – Wendy, mom of a 33, 31, and 29 year old
“Each year I filled a Rubbermaid tubby with every single thing he did. Right before the beginning of the next school year, we would purge anything we knew we wouldn’t want to keep. Now I’ve taken all the pics and papers and put them in plastic sleeves in binders organized by age/grade/activity.” -Renee, mom of a 26 year old
“Some of the pictures are on display and I let grandkids go through and pick which ones they want to swap out on display” – Julie, mom of a 37, 40, 50, and a 53 year old, as well as a middle son who passed away when he was 19.
“I have a portable file folder holder for each kid. In it I have folders labeled by year/grade. Each kid has a decent sized Rubbermaid container with the special keepsakes (blankets, stuffed animals, etc) I also let them pick some of their favorite things to put in there. Also two scrapbooks for each kid from preschool to graduation.” -Lisa, mom of a 23 and 25 year old
“The K-12 tubs live in the closets of their childhood rooms now that they have moved out. I have pictures of each girl in their childhood rooms, along with their birth plaques.” -Lori, mom of a 26 and 28 year old
I think the most comforting takeaway from my conversations with these veteran moms is that when my children grow up, that doesn’t mean my time of being a mom is over. It is just a role change. All of these moms were still active participants in their grown children’s lives. They may not rock their babies to sleep or run carpool any longer but they do flourish in the new season of mentorship, friendship, and grandparenthood that time has ushered in.
The love doesn’t stop when the binders are closed and the tubs are filled. And when that feeling of sentimentality strikes them, it is there waiting for them in things they kept.