Thursday, April 30, 2009

When is the right time to pass on the stuff

I cleaned out Angela's old room yesterday, and it got me wondering what the statute of limitations is on keeping your kid's stuff. Our family is a little unique in that we've traveled and moved often, pulling together a household from nothing more times than I care to remember. This is in contrast to folks I know who grew up in one house, or folks who have lived in the same home all their adult lives and have accumulated a bunch of "stuff" from that lifetime. When the neighbor across the street died, the family had to bring in a bobcat to clear out the backyard. We lost count on the number of those big trash containers they brought in to clear out the "stuff" in the house.

We've never had that problem. I'm a tosser, not a saver, mostly by necessity. If you are shipping an entire family to Bulgaria in eight suitcases and as many boxes, you have to narrow it down. When we moved to Johannesburg, I thought it was a luxury to have a couple of 4x6 shipping containers. It's amazing what you can put into one of those. Actually, the giving up of one's "stuff" is a whole 'nother blog.

Today I'm thinking about those treasures we all accumulated as children, tweens, teenagers, then college students. The coming-home-from-the-hospital infant outfit, special blankie, first shoes, t-shirts, trophies, souvenirs, books, special toys or stuffed animals, photos of old boyfriends. We have one box for each daughter marked "keepsakes", but really, their keepsakes can't be contained in just that one box. Tessa has a lifelong love of shoes. Each time she gives away or throws out a pair of shoes it's like saying good-bye to a dear old friend. We also have a closet full of formals from various proms/dances/weddings. Getting two daughters through four years of high school and four years of college requires a LOT of fancy dresses! And one daughter isn't even finished with college yet!

So my question is, at what point is it the right time to hand over all that stuff to your adult children? I believe that at this moment Mark and I have retrieved all of our keepsakes from our parents' houses, including old yearbooks, my junior high drill team outfit (was I ever really that tiny?), and my wedding dress. But it took years for us to make that transfer - again, complicated by the fact that we were moving and often without a permanent place to call home.

I don't know the answer. I just know I want my children to always feel welcome in my/their home. I want them to know they always have a haven. If that means I should keep their things for a little longer, then I'm happy to. But really, I just crave a well-ordered life and a well-ordered home, and keeping closets full of things we don't use doesn't help to fulfill that desire.

While we're on the subject of keeping things from the past, here are a couple of photos of my parentals I found while creeping on my Mother's Facebook. She's in touch with some of her friends from high school and they've been sharing photos. My dad is the guy in the middle of all the girls (duh). The photo was taken on their senior trip. My mom is the cute blonde on the left in the second photo.


jen said...

Great photos. I love old pics like that. I wish I was a tosser. Sometimes, I give in to the urge to purge my life from all the junk, but it's rare. Mostly, it's the endless bins of mementos I can't part with. It's like I have enough stuff to open a museum of my kids' childhoods. It does become ridiculous. i always think if I get rid of stuff it means I didn't cherish those times. I fear I'll regret it. But, honestly, how long can I carry around two huge bins of Hello Kitty??? And, then, I'm plagued with thoughts of Bible verses - if you have two coats, give one away. UGH.

Extreme Educators said...

I think that the moving has made the keepsake issue worse. If I had lived in Bethany all my life then all my friends would be right here and I wouldn't feel so stubborn when it came to getting rid of things that reminded me of that part of my life. The problem is that each momento takes me to a different time, a different place, and a different group of people. I mean really, how hard should it be to get rid of two sets of "juggling clubs"? They just don't sell them in this country!

Cindy said...

Hello. I've been a lurker on your blog for a while. My husband and I have moved a number of times and we have been very disciplined in regards to disposing of 'stuff';..much to my chagrin! It is extremely healthy to shed 'useless weight", but who gets to determine that category? It's a tough discussion/decision. I enjoy your blog very much and have left an award for it on my blog. Visit me here
Looking forward to getting to know you better!