Three cars sat in my friend’s back yard, marring an otherwise idyllic scene of pine trees and wildflowers.
“Why are those cars there?” I asked. “Oh, they belong to my kids,” she answered.
Her kids were grown and had left home, but for one reason or another, they had left their old cars in my friend’s back yard.
I wondered why they didn’t store their cars at their own homes, or sell them if they weren’t using them. I wondered why my friend allowed her kids to leave their cars that way. But I knew she, like many of us, wants to find a way to stay in her adult children’s lives even if it is just to store their belongings. It gives her a visual reminder of bygone days and provides a reason for her kids to come back.
By contrast, as soon as their children graduated high school, our neighbors cleared out the kid stuff in their children’s bedrooms. One room was turned into an office, the other into a sewing room. From graduation day on, their children would be guests in their home and would sleep on the couch. I watched as the trash guy picked up stuffed animals and the remnants of the neighbor kid’s childhoods a few days after graduation.
Our neighbors wanted to instill a strong sense of independence for their children and turn the page to pursue a new chapter as empty nesters. They reconnected as a couple and began planning a future together. They see their family during the holidays and are happy that their kids have their own lives.
Most of us fall somewhere in-between. I talk to my daughter most days, or we send texts, but I really want her to see that she has the skills to live her own life, but know that if she needs me, I’m here. I too need to develop my own life as well.
What You Should do With Kid Stuff When Your Child Moves On
Letting go is hard, at least it was for me, at first.
I’ll never forget the morning I donated Brooke’s baby things to the Kimberly Home. A young girl and her father came to the house to pick up Brooke’s outgrown crib, clothes, and all the stuff a new baby needs. It marked the closing of a chapter; my husband didn’t want any more children. It hurt tremendously to let those things go. Yet, I knew I didn’t have space for my daughter’s baby things AND what she would need to continue to grow. Donating her baby things was hard, but knowing they were going to another family helped salve my feelings of loss.
My daughter is in college now. Last summer she announced that she had officially moved out. She has an apartment of her own now and pays her own bills. It’s a source of pride and self-mastery for her. However, she is still very sensitive about her old bedroom, so we’ve left the bedding and some of her belongings on the nightstand so that when she comes home she still feels welcome.
It’s time for both of us to move forward, be connected, but separate; (we still talk almost every day). Life has given us our own journeys and paths. I’m here, providing emotional support, but I know the main part of my job as a parent is done. I loved being my daughter’s mother and cherished those days. But I know that it’s time to reduce my “footprint” and let go of more memorabilia and stuff. None the less, I have a small collection of items I keep as mementos.
As we contemplate these changes and begin considering thinking of the future, what do we save, and what do we let go of? What do we do with our children’s old kid stuff? What is that “just right” point between a few meaningful mementos and unhealthy hoarding or holding on?
- For now, we are keeping Brookes’s room decorated the way she left it, but Roger uses it for his office when she’s not there. When we move, I will revisit the bedding, but for now, it’s ok as it is.
- I have scrapbooks tucked behind my couch for when I want to take a trip down memory lane. I loved being a full-time mom and I still love looking at those old pictures.
- I framed a couple of pieces of artwork she is proud of and made a notebook with her report cards and anything she might need in terms of personal records such as medical history.
- I’ve saved her Christening dress, it is so beautiful! And a couple of other little dresses; other than that, I don’t have lots of memorabilia. It’s more important to me that I keep the memories and feelings in my heart.
- And of course, I’ve kept the little gifts she made for me through the years at school. So precious! (They fit into a small box)
Before letting it all go:
Many kids complain that their parents dumped their toys and belongings without discussion so when I come across my daughter’s belongings, I offer them to her with the caveat that if she doesn’t take them by a date certain I will be donating them. This has worked well.
I’ve teared up a bit as I’ve been writing this; letting go of kid stuff and so many other things feels like we are letting go of so much more sometimes. I know it’s time to make room for my next chapter. Instead of asking whether an item brings me joy, I ask “do I need this?” and “why am I holding on?” As I think it through it becomes easier to see that holding on to things can’t turn back the hands of time and it’s important to focus on the beauty of the present.
Great ways to preserve and document memories and to gift.
I love the idea of framing and using some of our memories as art for the home. The frame (above) is cute and can be easily rearranged. It also comes in matte black. I have been an avid scrapbooker, so this wouldn’t be complete without suggesting preserving photo memories in a scrapbook, and don’t forget a few cute papers and stickers to add a few notes along the way.
Create beautiful slide shows you can look at any time using this simple slide show maker. (plus it makes a great gift for both new parents and grandparents. And, OMG I love this frame that works via wifi using photos on your phone.
I love keepsake boxes! They are a great way of saving the really special kid stuff and help in limiting how much you end up keeping. Please share the ways you are preserving memories and any tips you might have. Click to shop.
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Do you have any leftover kid stuff in your house? What have you decided to do with it? Let me know in a comment below!