Who Owns What?

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?

I wonder.

8 thoughts on “Who Owns What?

  1. smothermother

    I like to purge. If it ain’t nailed down it’s outta here! I get it from my dad who was known to throw perfectly good winter boots out because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time. But the jellybean LOVES EVERYTHING WITH ALL HIS HEART and is so incredibly sentimental that every little scrap of paper has HUGE MEANING. It’s exhausting. And also means that his room is a disaster zone of dioramas and art and tests since kindergarten! I am almost at the point of starting to secretly take things out to see if he notices and do your phased approach.

    Now don’t get me started on the toys in the basement! Gah!

  2. lvsconsulting

    We keep books and classic toys (like the Thomas stuff and Lego). Cheap plastic stuff has gotten thrown out over the years (as it breaks or as I get my stealthy hands on it) or else has been used in geocaches. I have one sentimental folder per kid and a few art binders from when they were really young – nothing that’s getting in the way. Now, if I could finally get them to clean up the science fair stuff, I’d be much happier!!

  3. Okay, I paused and wondered how I feel about the dilemma, as a former kid and as a parent.

    My parents kept some stuff, at first everything because I’m the oldest of three so my brother and sister played with my former toys. That said, in a small French apartment, you can’t keep everything… stuff was given/thrown away over the years. I still have a few toys I really loved and I’m glad I have some physical memories of my childhood but I don’t think I would enjoy entire boxes of toys.

    I moved Mark’s baby toys to the basement a while ago. I’m not sure what to do with them. He is still at a stage where he rediscovers toys once in a while, so I’ll probably keep the box for a while (no one around me needs more toys!). I throw away damaged/broken toys (when no one is looking). Same with school art, I keep the best and get rid of these paper with half-drawn houses.

  4. I think the main thing I care about is however much is saved, the child take EVERY SINGLE PIECE OF IT with them when they move out as adults. Some of my mom’s friends (in their 60s) are still storing TONS AND TONS of their kids’ stuff for them, with the kids (in their 30s) insisting it can’t be thrown away.

  5. Tudor

    We started doing this thing where we’d say – “You haven’t played with your Bakugan collection for quite a while – how would you feel about getting it all together and selling it in Kijiji?” That leaves it in their control. If they agreed, and made the effort to find all the bits and arrange them for photos, etc. then they got to keep the money from Kijiji. It showed them you don’t HAVE to keep EVERYTHING, and they saw that other kids were really happy to have what they no longer played with, and (most importantly?) it helps keep my house manageable!

  6. My mom got rid of stuff when she wanted (after we no longer used it). I didn’t care, but my sister still talks about how my mom gave away her teddy bear.

    How about giving each of them a Rubbermaid bin and telling them that anything they no longer use and want to keep needs to fit in the bin? If it doesn’t fit in the bin, they can store it neatly in their room or get rid of it altogether. So they get to choose what’s important, but you don’t have a house given over to stuff they’ll never think of again.

    (You can have a bin, too, for stuff you want to keep).

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