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February 11, 2016

On Letting Go of Things Someone Else Could Enjoy

Last Saturday, I bought my nine year old some pants. He’s our third boy, and I find myself actually buying clothes for him, because the other boys’ clothes got trashed. You can talk to me all day about buying high quality clothing that will last, and I’ll roll my eyes and introduce you to three boys who love track pants and playing. Maybe if they only wore said pants as instructed, on the track, the pants would last. But I wonder if crawling and rolling on the track counts? Because those pants take a lot of abuse. But I digress.

I bought the kid a couple pairs of pants. I’m trying to get my kids to help manage the clutter that somehow just happens. Parents, you know what I’m talking about. One minute, you have one tiny baby, and a few carefully catalogued toys, mostly wooden, educational, beautiful, and ready for your perfect little human to play with at the appropriate age. Fast forward ten minutes and your house is an explosion of plastic figures, random game pieces, and sticky things. You can’t remember where any of it came from, and you don’t care. But when you try to get rid of it? Your kids act like you’re trying to remove one of their arms.

So. I try to always bring reusable bags to the grocery store, but when I forget, I grab a few paper bags. When my sons get something new, or complain of boredom, or when I want to annoy them a little, I hand them a paper bag and ask them to fill it with stuff they don’t want. And I promise myself not to care what stuff it is. No getting sentimental! It’s much, much too late for that.

When we got home from our pants buying extravaganza, I handed my youngest son a bag and asked him to fill it up with whatever he could part with, provided it was in good enough condition for someone else to enjoy. He could fill it with pants, t-shirts, toys…whatever he wasn’t using. It didn’t take him long.Goodwillkidstuff

Though I promised not to question his choices, I peeked. He was giving away all of the precious bendy figures, carefully collected by his big brothers, along with the army men (a sexist toy, anyway, right?) and the “Skee-boo guys,” a set of Scooby Doo characters his now 17 year old brother had treasured when he was three. I had a little sniffle, drove that bag down to Goodwill, and let it go.

Okay, not quite. I did pull out a boxed set of soccer players that included two goals and a felt soccer field. After all, I have to save something for the grandkids. And that seemed like the kind of random toy your grandma always had when you came to visit. My own grandmother had bristle blocks. Remember those? She still had them when my own kids were young. And I kept them when she died. The collection has dwindled in the last 40 years, but we still have maybe seven blocks and a wheel or two. Every now and then, you have to save something for purely sentimental reasons.

There is a second hand shop on a small highway on the way to Litchfield. The name of the store is “It’s Still Good In It,” not too very far from “Club It’ll Do.” I am not making this up. Whenever I ask my children to collect things to give away, or when I fill a bag or two myself, I remind them that what we donate  “still has good in it.” And that just because something is still useful, or even awesome, it might not be useful or awesome to us. Hoarding things that someone else could enjoy is just wrong.

How do you help your kids clear the clutter? Do you have trouble letting it go or do you heave a sigh of relief once it’s gone?

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