Behold, the boxes of guilt…
These are the boxes of drawings, ticket stubs, participation certificates and sportsmanship trophies that have taken over your garage and basement. They are the boxes that have layers of regret as thick as the layers of dust covering the Lucite tops.
Because, you see, these are the boxes a “good mom” would have turned into loving scrapbooks with pictures of your kid’s idyllic childhood and quippy sayings accompanying each photo mounted on acid-free paper for future generations to bask in and enjoy.
But instead, you have mounds of stuff no one has looked at in years, except for the occasional glimpse accompanied by that twinge of guilt.
Now, you just want to pass the boxes along and get them out of the garage, but how do you do that without overloading your kids with clutter?
Pre-Sort Before Your Kids Get Involved.
One of the biggest mistakes we can make is to dump a thousand photos, stuffed animals, certificates and miscellany on our kids and say, “Here.” As parents, we have some responsibility to guide our kids through the process.
- Not every memory is worth keeping. I’ve kept exactly one picture of me and my first husband. It was when we were in high school on a church youth trip and we were just getting to know each other. I had a huge crush on him and everything at that time was fun and possibilities. I kept that photo because when I see it, it makes me smile. The rest of the photos of just the two of us – gone. And here’s the good news: I don’t miss them at all. This move was not out of anger; those memories are just not happy ones and I moved on a long time ago. I’ve kept a few pictures of us as a family for our kids.
Your kids also don’t need pictures of relatives they met one time when they were three, cousins they don’t know, or family vacations before they were born. You can pre-sort anything you know they don’t care about.
Same goes for picture with people whose names I (and my kids) don’t remember, or pictures that are associated with not great memories.
- Now that you’ve had the chance to evaluate the memories, it’s time to choose the best of the best. Do you really need/want 32 pictures of your daughter’s fourth birthday, or would three pictures be enough? Do you need to keep the third-place trophy of your daughter’s homeschool bowling league, or would a picture of the trophy suffice?
Choose the best of the best, and get rid of the rest. We only need one photo to spark a good memory. Let it be the best photo in the bunch.
Schedule a Time With Your Kids to Sort Through The Rest.
Once you’ve presorted, then it’s time to get your kids in on the process. It’s a lot easier to make group decisions after you’ve culled everything you know nobody wants.
- Decide. Ask your kids if they want input to the evaluation process. Some kids will want to be sure to have their input, and some could not care less. Either answer is fine, but they need to know that if they don’t participate, they don’t get to complain later on.
And be sure to let your kids know that they will not hurt your feelings if they don’t keep everything. Remember, not every memory has earned the right to be preserved.
Here are some things you’ll want to discuss during the sorting process:
a.) Who is keeping these treasures?
b.) How much space do I want to dedicate to storing photos and memorabilia?
c.) What should happen to certain items if the person keeping them no longer wants them? (For example, maybe Mom would keep the artwork Suzy painted in high school if she eventually decides to get rid of it.)
2. Display. If you’ve been a part of the Clutter Free Academy, you know I have three criteria for whether you keep something:
a.) I love it.
b.) I use it.
c.) I would buy it again.
This is great criteria for you and also for guiding your kids when deciding what to keep.
- Digitalize. For pics of my pics without the glare, I use PhotoScan by Google. This way, I have a digital record of what I need.
- Distribute. Make sure your kids have access to whatever photos they want, whether it’s the actual photos or the folder where the digital copies are.
I want memorabilia guilt to be a thing of your past —not part of your kid’s future. Decluttering before you pass those items down, and then helping them decide what to keep and what to toss ensures they’ll have all of the memories and none of the guilt.
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She and her husband Roger are the parents of four young adults in San Jose, CA. When she’s not dating her husband or hanging out with her puggle Jake, Kathi is speaking at retreats, conferences and women’s events across the US.