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Treasured Memento or Junk? PDF Print E-mail
Written by Crystal Brewe -- BT Contributor   
January 2013

Figuring out what to keep and what to ditch from your child’s early years isn’t easy

Wbigstock-Child-S-Painting-3478701e’ve all been there: playing Frisbee in the yard, close to the recycling bin. We thought the watercolor was buried deep in the remnants of the Sunday paper and then: “Mommy, why is my painting in the recycling bin?” Ouch!

My kids make art. A lot of art. My three-year-old alone comes home with about 15 pieces of art every day. Multiply that by five days a week, four weeks a month, 12 months a year. Where do you store 3600 masterpieces?

A&E’s Hoarders is reality TV at its finest. These people sacrifice their current living conditions for the ritual of holding on to the purchases of the past. It is consumerism gone way, way wrong.

But it seems so easy to become one of these people. Our house is not large. Like many older Miami homes, it has little closet space and no attic. After the cream of the children’s art crop comes off the fridge, it makes its way to the countertop, then if it’s lucky, to the back of the closet. But it isn’t unusual for it to find its way onto the dining room table, between the couch cushions, or even into the bathroom for a while.

We grow attached: “Isn’t the way she drew daddy’s nose so cute?” “Isn’t the hair he painted on that penguin so funny?”

We bought a large plastic container at the Container Store. We filled that up in a matter of weeks. We bought another. Perhaps I’ll make a scrapbook when I have more time. Perhaps I’ll buy frames and fill the walls of the guest bedroom with their art.

And there it is… It all starts so innocently, with a well-meaning plan and, the next thing you know, your house is wheezing for air under mountains of objets d’art. That’s when A&E shows up with the cameras.

It’s not about the art, though. It’s about holding on to a quickly dissolving childhood. It’s about memorializing a sweet time when the sun wore sunglasses and there were rainbows on everything.

I want to encourage creativity. I want to grow my children’s confidence and show them I appreciate their imagination. I want to show my grandchildren the necklace their mommy made from macaroni. I also want a healthy living space and room for common household items like bath towels and a vacuum cleaner.

My mother-in-law periodically sends us little things she kept from my husband’s childhood: a clay dinosaur figurine, a ceramic plate he painted at age five. (Wait, now I have to find a place for this stuff, too? Come on!)

Am I a monster for needing to weed out the everyday from the extraordinary?

My neighbor, Alfredo, recently shared a similar story with me. It just got to be too much for him and his wife. They found an app called Evernote that has allowed them an endless “virtual fridge.”

I fell in love with this idea. We went a step further and created Evernote accounts for both Everly and Matilda. We linked them to their Gmail accounts. (They’re too young to really use these, but we often send them messages about their first experience on Santa’s lap, their first day of school, or even their first time camping. They also occasionally use them for e-mailing grandma.)

With some tagging features, we’ve eliminated most of the guilt associated with shedding the construction paper. We’ve also solved the issue of not having a baby book! Google Chrome, feel free to feature me in your next tear-jerker of a commercial.

Fancy app aside, we still have a twinge of remorse when the woven placemat or gluey-glittered Cheerio mosaic ends up in the blue bin. My husband asked if it made him a bad father to throw out the scribble drawing of Cookie Monster. It was a sweet gift. So were the five others. In 30 years, will our daughter really appreciate that we saved this?

Not long ago, my mother sent me a box full of angsty notes from my high school years. (Remember hand-written “notes”?) I spent hours remembering a 16-year-old who once roamed this planet with big bangs and plans to become a country-western singer. Now, that was worth keeping! I’m not sure I would have had the same walk down memory lane with a box of papier-mâché projects completed at age three.

My friend Susan swears that involving her five-year-old in decisions about what to keep and what to purge has saved countless tears and one sweet little ego. Together they decide what goes on the fridge and what is stored in the archives (and she swears by one container). Annually she goes through the container and weeds through the keepers for the year.

I am not a monster. I am not a hoarder. I really like the toilet-paper-roll robot that Everly made this week, though, and I think it looks fantastic on the mantle -- at least for now.

 

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