Sentimental stuff. Your first teddy bear, that favorite book, the cute outfit you had to have. The things that we have fond memories of can be tough to part with. Sometimes we hang on to childhood memorabilia because we think we are going to pass it on to our kids or grandkids.
But let’s be honest: stuff deteriorates over time. Elastic gives out, colors fade, things get squashed, or just don’t age well. Sometimes older things may not be safe because of lead (and who knows what they’ll discover is unsafe in the future!). Over time styles change, and what you found essential, your kids may not care about. There’s a good chance they will want their own toys and memories, not yours.
From my own childhood, I saved my first teddy bear, the one doll that I played with, and another special stuffed animal. I kept one baby outfit and one other dress that my mother made. My own daughter wore both of these outfits, and I will continue to save them. I also saved many books because I loved to read as a child, and now they are on my kid’s bookshelves.
The best thing I kept is an antique doll bed. Five generations of girls in our family have played with it. It was made for my great-grandmother in 1887. Even though it is an antique and is special, I still let my children play with it because that’s what it’s for. Yes, it may break someday, but if no one plays with it, what’s the point? It might as well be in a museum.
Of my own kids’ toys, I saved Duplo, a few infant toys, a Fisher Price barn, and favorite books. All of these things are fairly timeless toys. I pull them out occasionally when I have visitors with small kids.
For a long time, I kept a pack-and-play and many toys, because I thought I could use them for my grandkids someday. But I finally realized that they would be very out-of-date after 20 to 30 years. If I ever did need them, it would be easy to buy replacements from a yard sale.
Ready, Get Set…
If you don’t feel emotionally ready to let it go of the past, try this: sort through your sentimental items to see if there is anything that is in bad shape that you know you can toss. At the same time, you may come across a few more items that just don’t mean that much to you anymore. Put them in a donate box. The rest may need to wait for another day, but don’t put it off forever! Make plans to revisit the saved items at least once a year. More time and a different stage of life can change your mind about what you really want to keep.
Have a friend help you go through stuff and tell her the stories. Sometimes sharing your memories can bring a sense of closure so you can pass things on for another child to enjoy. Rather than keeping 100 stuffed animals, take some pictures, and just save a few of the best.
If you are going to save something because it has value to you, please find a way to display it. Don’t just stuff it in a box. Nothing says “I treasure this” like putting it in a place of honor.
So what can you do with outgrown toys and clothes? My best advice is to donate it to others who can use it NOW. When I was young, our neighbor passed on some Barbie dolls and clothes to me when they outgrew them. Talk about excited! When my own daughter outgrew a dollhouse, we passed it on to friends who had 3 little girls.
We pass on kids clothes regularly because I’m always getting more hand-me-downs. Books can go to libraries or daycare centers. Shelters may take toys. If you have something that is truly collectible, cash in now! Sell it and use the money for something that you need in your life now.
Your stuff does not define you. Pass things on that you no longer need in your life. Make room for a new chapter. Acknowledge that those things were once loved and helped you create wonderful memories. Now let them go help someone else make memories.