My kids are getting to an age where they don’t really play with toys much any more – the poor Toys R Us flyer goes unopened and unloved each week. They still get out the Lego and the Hexbugs every now and again, but things like dolls and Strawberry Shortcake and stacking rings are no longer in use.
But they’re still in my house. Taking up space, mostly in storage bins in the basement, but also sprinkled in just about every other room.
Lately I’ve been thinking about getting rid of some stuff, but I’m torn. Do I own it, or if was bought for the kids, do they get to say?
My grandmother – my mother’s mother – was a thrower-outer. That led to a few incidents where she got rid of things that my mother considered “hers,” and was attached to. As a result, my own mom firmly considered our toys and books and things from childhood ours. As an adult, I’m still getting the occasional box of stuffed animals or puzzles from her that were mine as a little girl. Sometimes I value it – I’m overjoyed that she kept the entire Nancy Drew series, for example, and my youngest has gotten hours of fun out of my old Pretty Ponies. But sometimes it’ll be some cheap thing I won at a local fair at age 8 or some notes from my Grade 10 English class and I wonder why she bothered to keep this stuff all these years and to ship it to me.
I suppose the real point here is that she left it up to me to decide for myself. I can decide now that I’m grown what’s crap, and what I value enough to want to share with my own kids.
But do I need to do the same? With everything?
I’ve tried in the past to get the kids to go through their own stuff for filtering. It’s hit and miss. The youngest is actually ruthless – to the point where she always makes a big bin of things to get rid of that includes things that I personally am attached to, or think are high enough quality to last through to the grandchildren, so I end up talking her back off the ledge. The other two are terrible – they want to keep EVERYTHING and if I manage, after hours of cajoling, to convince them to let go of a shoebox worth of crap, they’ll lament about it for weeks afterwards.
When they were younger I used to have one day a year – a school day – when I went into their rooms and “cleaned up.” I’d make my own giant box of things to get rid of – old notes and birthday cards, McDonalds toys, various craft creations – and I’d put this box in the basement, labelled “phase one removal.” If no one asked for the stuff in the box for six months, it’d go out without me even opening it to double check what was inside. Maybe I should go back to this process?
Or maybe it’s just time I put my foot down and had them go through their own stuff again, with a firm hand and some limits. It all sounds so tiring, though. Wouldn’t a “phase one dumpster” be less painful for everyone? Or am I going to get some kid, at age 25, ask for one specific Hot Wheels car that is long gone, and be crushed when she finds I gave it away?