2011 in 2011: parting with the sentimental stuff

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This morning I threw away 73 pieces of my oldest son’s artwork.  I had saved some artwork from his two years at preschool, and his kindergarten teacher had kindly put together a lovely art portfolio for each of the children in his grade to take home at the end of the year.  Looking at all those works of art brought back a lot of memories of my son attending preschool and kindergarten, and how proud he was of all his artistic creations. Mixed in with all the treasures, there was a lot of not-so-special stuff that needed addressing.  I tossed some scribbled pages, as well as artwork that was just a bunch of random stuff glued onto a page.  I kept art that contained hand-prints, foot-prints and anything that documented his own thoughts and words at the time (a couple of “I love my Mom” works of art definitely made the cut).  I didn’t count the remaining items, but my guess is there is somewhere in the neighbourhood of 40 pieces of artwork left.

Given that I’ve been tackling the project of decluttering my home for nine months already, I wondered why I hadn’t thought to declutter this stuff before now.  I think besides the fact that my mother-in-law has advised me to keep every single piece of art from my kids’ childhood (not gonna happen!), my reluctance to deal with the art is part and parcel of the fact that it’s difficult to watch your kids transform from babies into kids, and again from small kids into bigger kids.  Time marches on, and no where is it more evident than in the faces of children who were once, not so long ago, little babies.

Things about which we are sentimental are often the hardest to let go of.  I think it’s worth saving only the most special things, because saving everything means the really special stuff gets lost in the clutter.  Here’s a few things I’ve kept in mind while letting go of my son’s artwork, which ranks right up there with photos of my kids as things I’m sentimental about:

  • Designate a portfolio for your kids art and keep everything in one place. This concept is not designed to help you keep every single piece of artwork that your child brings home, but to keep only the most special pieces in a place where they can remain in good condition so that they will still be around when your kids get older and want to reminisce about the things they did when they were small.
  • Consider keeping anything that documents how small your kids once were.  I’ve decided that the most important pieces for me to keep are works of art that document my children’s tiny palm prints or outlines their tiny feet.  I also like to keep art work from Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, as kids usually take this opportunity to write down how much they love Mom and Dad.  If something gives you the warm fuzzies when you look at it, consider keeping it.  If not, recycle or toss.
  • Consider tossing anything that could have been made by your neighbour’s kid.  If it’s just a bunch of macaroni glued to a piece of paper, maybe it won’t be so special in ten years.  Maybe it’s not special right now.  These types of art are ones I don’t hesitate twice about tossing into the trash.
  • If it’s really special, but really cumbersome, take a picture.  Sometimes kids come up with amazing ideas which translates into some really cool art work. However, they can end up being large or too unwieldy to house in a minimalist art portfolio.  If it’s something your child loves but you’re not so wild about, consider taking a photo of your little Michelangelo’s work of art and then displaying it in their room until the dust takes over and it’s time to let it go.
  • Put it on display or make it useful.  I’ve taken some of my son’s art and framed it for his grandparents as gifts.  Sometimes a scribbled or painted page can be transformed by a simple wooden picture frame.  Major bonus points for the fact that most grandparents adore this type of gift, as it’s something that captures the spirit of their grandchildren when they are small.  Alternately, consider putting your child’s latest sculpture to good use.  My dad still has a pencil holder I made for him in grade 1 on proud display in his home office – even though it’s just a cup with popsicle sticks glued to it, he’s made it useful and it’s stood the test of time.
  • Recycle unwanted artwork where you can.  Most of the items that I culled from my son’s art work could be recycled.  Of the 73 items, no more than 5 of them had to be tossed in the bin as garbage.  I like to encourage creativity in my kids and want them to continue to make great art; however, I would prefer to allow my kids to be creative while at the same time being sensitive to the planet as well.
I’m now at 4933 items decluttered so far this year, and I’m still looking around for things to donate or toss.  I’m finding less things in my home that fall into the “what was I thinking?” category, and I’m having to put more thought into the things I still own and if they are contributing beneficially to my daily life.

How are your decluttering efforts going?  Do you tackle the sentimental clutter or is it off limits in your household?

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2 responses »

  1. My decluttering efforts are requiring more effort these days. Unfortunately, I am still finding things that make me wonder what I was thinking.
    I love this tip:
    Consider tossing anything that could have been made by your neighbour’s kid.
    That’s awesome.
    I try to keep the things that the museums will come looking for when my son becomes a famous artist. That pretty much rules out snowmen and handprint turkeys! Keep up the great work. I love your blog.

    • I kept a hand-print turkey! I wanted to document the size of my son’s hand at kindergarten age. I also kept a “shoe-o-saurus” from preschool.

      This is me over here hiding under the table. 🙂

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