Thursday, July 31, 2008

Sneaky Mommy vs. The Hoarders

I have a confession to make: I am very strategic (and possibly dishonest and sneaky) in the way I keep clutter to a minimum around here. I am a minimalist (in everything but clothing and words). My husband and my daughter are pack rats. 

My husband and I moved to Virginia 4 months after we were married. Therefore, my first big challenge as a wife was to go through and pack his 'things.' Realizing that there are certain boundaries it is wisest not to cross (especially as a newlywed), I concentrated my energies on his closet. He literally still had a Coca-Cola rugby shirt (circa 1986) and it was 2001. To this day he wears college t-shirts bearing party dates from 1991.  While the teenaged lifeguards at the pool probably admire his vintage wear, I am sure they get a bigger kick out of pondering how a man has kept t-shirts older than they are.

This attachment to things is something that has definitely been passed down to K. She has always been a hoarder, developing important bonds with things like acorns, rocks and restaurant menus. As a person who thrives on purging junk, I simply don't get it. I have one box in the attic representing the meaningful things from my entire 33 years of life. 

K, on the other hand, has several hiding places around the house for her special things. She collects more in a month than I have in a lifetime! I am trying to learn to be respectful of the things that are really important to her, but there have to be limits. I keep some choice artwork displayed on our refrigerator, in their playroom and in their bedrooms. I am also mindful of toys that truly are meaningful to them and never take things from their 'special places.' The reality of this age is that there are a lot of possessions that are momentarily prized, but ultimately just junk.

I used to pitch things into the garbage can immediately when I found them lying around. K discovered this and now checks all of the garbage cans daily to make sure I haven't disposed of anything of hers. My amended strategy is to hide things (like restaurant kids' menus, coloring pages, Happy Meal toys, birthday party goodie bag contents) on top of the refrigerator or in my closet. If an item is not inquired about within a week or so, I pitch it--into an outside garbage can where it cannot be found. So far, this has yielded terrific results. I think I have had to fish one or two items out of purgatory...everything else has moved on without fanfare.

So, I am curious...are you gasping that I do this? How do you handle 'treasures'? Am I cold hearted...or normal?

37 comments:

Lori said...

I used to clean out my son's bedroom when he was in pre-k. I was careful not to throw away this week's precious items, but for things that had not been seen for many weeks, I packed them in garbage bags and he never even missed them. He is 18 and headed to college in a few weeks and he is an excellent purger now!

Karen said...

Oh good grief no. I have to do this as well. I am the only minimalist in our family of five and I sometimes thing I'm going to go nuts if I have to look at one more cluttered up space in our home.

I'm very respectful of my husband's things, but even he is over the top - keeping magazines from 1986 because of one article. Sigh. :)

I'm with you. If you haven't used it or it's not a "lovey", then chunk it.

Whitney said...

What a fantastic strategy! My trio is 2 and they have started showing signs of being horders (especially my sweet Finn). I sneak things into the trash when they aren't looking and it never occurred to me that they might figure that out! I'd better watch it! Thanks for the tip - you are doing the right thing!

Whitney

Tari said...

OMGosh - the mental picture of your husband and his tee shirts just cracks me up! My husband has the same habit. In fact, my favorite "I'm not feeling well and I really want to lie down" outfit includes one of his tie dye shirts from high school (it's so big and worn out and soft!). He even had a few worn out buttondowns earmarked for children's painting smocks - in college! That is one of the things that made me KNOW I wanted to marry him!

My younger one also keeps things I can't understand why he would want, and for a long time I threw them away when he wasn't looking. Along with terrible books and movies my mom would give them - anything I didn't want around. Now that they are older I have to be honest with them and sometimes we trade - mommy gets to clean out your top dresser drawer but she'll let you keep the disgusting squishy toy Grandmommy gave you that I just KNOW the dog will eat.

Honesty is the best policy with your kids now that they are getting older, but you're totally normal - people keep the strangest things!

Mary said...

Definately not gasping in horror. I'm even worse. I clean out their (husband and 12 yo son) stuff when they are out of the house and I only use black garbage bags. If I gave them any option at all we wouldn't be able to live in our house for all the stuff. My hubby keeps talking about renting a storage unit as it is.

Prairie Rose said...

As a kid who prized items, and an adult who has overcome that habit at long last thanks to Flylady, I have to say that it's probably a good strategy that you have -- hanging onto it a week before tossing it, that is. When something I prized was thrown out or lost when I was young, I can't even describe how painful the loss was. It was very real. So I would be very cautious not to cause such grief in your little one if you can possibly keep from it. However, to gradually shape her into realizing that junk is junk so she doesn't carry this with her her whole life is probably wonderful. I like the week thing. If it's truly special to her, she's going to notice it gone in a week's span, and if it's not and she thinks of it later, she begins to learn that it really is okay to get rid of junk... clever plan. :)

JP's MOM said...

I am like your husband and my husband is like you.

Too funny.

Both of our kids have a little bit of my hoarding special things tendency.

To keep things in control, once a month I go through their "random" buckets in their room and sort. If the item hasn't been out in a long while it goes. This includes things like fast food toys, restaurant menus, origami, crayon scribbles, stray rocks, etc.

They each have a treasure box to put the really special things. Really really special rocks can be kept in a bucket in garage, then we paint them and they put them in their "rock garden".

Leah said...

I'm impressed that you stay on top of it that well. I have great intentions of purging the playroom, but I'M the one who gets attached to their things. I was such a horder as a little girl and I still have my sorority t-shirts circa 1990-1994 as well. I don't wear them anymore, but I can't get rid of them. I complain that the house does not stay more organized, but I am a big part of the problem ... in that they do as I do, not as I say. That was very enlightening ... Thank you.

MaryBeth said...

I'm still pretty overwhelmed with the clothes and stuff required by all these little people in my house. I feel like if I don't constantly stay on top of the clutter it will overtake us. So I'm not appalled at your strategy... just amazed that you are able to be at the point where their toys and "treasures" are all that is left to get through!! One of these days...

k and c's mom said...

You are oh so normal!
My students are continually giving me special pictures and notes they have drawn or written. I know that so much love and effort went into them. I also know that if I kept all of them the room would sink several feet into the ground from the weight. I have a Special Box that I put these gifts into after I have ohhed and ahhhed over them (and lavished praise and big hugs to the giver.) It is a beautiful box decorated with gold and silver. And I take the contents home about once a month to make room for more treasures. (Students can't go through my home trashcan.) The children know their gift was admired and valued. I know I've honestly appreciated the gift,the effort and the student's precious heart. The Special Box. You should make one! (PS: I also take home some of the most meaningful notes and pictures for my refrigerator door. Since my kids are grown, this allows me a continually changing art exhibit for free!)

HW said...

My children had treasure boxes. I took them to Hobby Lobby and let them pick out their boxes and they got to decide what would be placed in it - happy meal toys, rocks, a keychain from Grandpa's collection. When the treasure box became full, they had to decide what to get rid of. I think giving them the control of what to throw away helped. The treasure boxes were also a good distraction on rainy days "let's explore your treasure boxes."

My kids, 14 and 17 still remember those boxes.

If K likes menus, you might just buy her a school folder and let her keep them in a drawer. Something about them is appealing to her - maybe the colors?

sara's art house said...

I hear your pain! My kids are all hoarders, and I want to get rid of all the junk!!! We deep clean the toys every once in awhile and I fill a trashbag very quietly and take it directly to the outside trash! We cannot keep all of the Happy meal toys!! :)

I have given them one box to keep treasures in.

I like your top of the fridge idea!

Carrie said...

Kids' meal toys go in the backpack in the car so that I can take them in for doctor appointments, etc.

Special toys that are outgrown are put in a box in the top of the closet. (I mean the ones I want to save for them to keep.)

Other toys are all fair game. I have a big 25-drawer bin system and we swap out drawers once a week. This makes it easy to...weed out a few things as need be. I keep a tote in the bottom of the linen closet where I put stuff to donate. When it gets full enough, I transfer it to opaque bags out of the sight of children and then have the charity come pick it up on their regular run. We can talk about how we give our things that we don't need but are still good to boys and girls who don't have those things. But I don't let them look in the bags! :-) Other stuff goes in the kitchen trash can during naptime, with other stuff piled on top of it. :-)

I'm a minimalist too. :-)

Deidre said...

I am the same way. I cannot stand to keep every little thing that comes in the house. The key to success is throwing it away where they can't find it. Most of the time, they never miss it - especially Happy meal toys.

I think it's a girl thing - or atleast a 'little girl' thing. My daughters (6 and 3) have things that are special to them tucked away in every nook of their rooms. I try to be respectful as well, but when I clean their rooms, I take along a trash bag (I just don't do it around them :)

Golf Widow said...

Oh,I hope normal! I feel the same. My girls can develop a relationship with a rock they find on a walk.Drives me crazy.Summer has limited my purge time.
Even only a few things from preschool made the cut.Try sneaking that one by the eagle eyes.Scan the art work and save only the very special stuff. What about the 100 thing challenge? Why not 50!

R said...

i was a hoarder before marriage, but i married a bigger hoarder than me so i had to adapt fast. so i'm a "recovering hoarder", i say. :0) now i HATE clutter.

i pretty much just purge the junky toys every now and then, and the kids don't really notice. then again, my oldest is only 2 1/2. but i'm noticing that her memory span is getting longer, so this may not last much longer!

Sullins' Spot said...

Very normal! I haven't met a Mom that doesn't do this and if we didn't hide things and trash them we would be in a mound of happy meal toys and restaurant coloring pages around the Sullins' house! :O)

Jenny said...

We have toy purgatory at our house too. Isn't it amazing some of the "treasures" they want to keep?!?

Liz said...

Well, unfortunately I'm a packrat myself, but I DO do that same thing w/ the kids' "junk". Happy Meal toys do NOT belong in my van for 7 weeks! I tend to take those little "treasures" & hang onto them overnight. If no one has asked about it by 24 hours later, I toss it.

Liesl said...

I wouldn't consider myself or my kids "pack rats" but I do need to purge toys and junk often. Happy meal toys get played with for a couple of days and then either go in the trash or in a bag to go with missionaries to other countries. The small toys make great gifts to children in less fortunate countries. Only a few drawings get kept. Playroom gets a big purging at each birthday, holiday, etc. My big problem now is all the bags of stuff I'm waiting to give to my baby nieces and nephews.

Christi said...

Oh, I definitely do this! In fact, I just sold LOTS of the boys' toys online in a "virtual yard sale" between my moms group - and they didn't even notice they were gone. That was a real wake-up call for us. Our playroom looked (and still does) like a toy store. I only saved things they actually play with.

For "treasures" they both have a "special box". R's is on his desk and C's fits on a bookshelf built into their bunkbeds. If I see it lying around, I ask them to put it away. Otherwise it's gone. And when the box gets full? Time to let something go.

Tee said...

OMG! I'm in your corner!!!!! You have to stay on top of the pack rats or you will eventually be overtaken by all their stuff. Good idea keep the "treasures" on top of the refrig for a week. I would try that with my husband, but he's taller than me and would catch that little trick quickly. I tell him his closet is like the DEAD SEA, always taking in and never giving out. He has to give items away before he can add new ones, because he's OUT OF ROOM! When is enough, enough? LOL.

Michelle said...

I would definitely toss stuff out!

I have found a great way to "keep" special papers and artwork without actually having to keep it. Scan the picture to your computer. Once you have enough of them, just save them to a CD and you can look at them anytime you want!

Joni said...

You are so funny!

During our move, I found boxes of medical school notes that my husband had been hoarding for 16 years! I threw them away.

Don't tell him. : )

Amy-neighbor said...

I really like the treasure chest idea! I do not think you are horrible. It all just needs to be in balance. I think I would take the approach of trying to keep K in the process of purging - use it as a way to properly channel that "need" of hers to hang on to things.
Pick a certain day each month or however often you choose, maybe make it the same day you purge toys in the play room, for ALL the kids to make their "special" pile, their "hang on to" pile, and their "toss or give away" pile.

Let them be a part of that process. Explain the "hang on to pile" is one that you keep for a bit longer - maybe till the next purge time and then it needs to either go in the "special" pile or "toss" pile.

This can be how they learn what they are going to donate and give to other people that don't have as much - there is obviously some things that you will just toss on your own - happy meal stuff, etc..that you know doesn't mean anything, but I think teaching them this tool is invaluable for them to attain so when they are adults they will be equipped and not walk around with "frat" shirts - LOL!
I say that with such fondness, b/c I have some myself. I tend to gather and make piles of things that I may need at one point. But I do go through and purge periodically, but it drives my husband batty! He has taught me filing systems that I put articles, pictures, info in that when I need to recall, I can pretty efficiently.

I have tupperware bins that have A's and H's name on it - and that is where we put special art or writing papers, report cards, special books they've made - that I do not hang. There is art that is hung, but we cannot possibly hang it all, so we (together) put in their special school bin with that particular year written on it. I do think it will be so neat one day to go back to when they first wrote their address, name, a story, etc...and see that work.

I am rambling, but I think you get my drift. Explain to K - that her special stuff needs to have a specific place, box, container treasure chest, whatever, but cannot be stashed in odd places around the house - it is family space.

Mrs. H said...

Oh, I hear you on the happy meal toys, etc. My daughter even wants to keep the paper bags the meal comes in! Pretty much, I let her have it all and then about a week later, I'll go in (while she's watching tv, etc) and grab those things and toss them. After a week, she's on to different things and has forgotten. Sometimes I will just leave them in my closet for a few days, like you said, in case she asks for it, but she rarely does.
My daughter also loves to take paper and tear it up into tiny bits (to use as play food for her stuffed animals) and so I'll go in about once every few weeks to toss those scraps as well! She's got a great imagination and plays well with simple things, but you can only have so much "junk" around the house :-)

Jillian, Inc. said...

I am right with you on this. In fact, my 2yo has so many "art project" from school that I used to pitch some of them in the trash before I even got in the house. My husband was mortified that I wouldn't keep every single shred of construction paper and wayward cotton ball. But I still do it. Just don't tell.

MamaBear said...

I'm only gasping because I haven't thought of the "purgatory" idea myself ... my husband and kids are "collectors" as well, and it makes me crazy how so much junk can be so special. Thanks for the inspiration ...

Dear Abbi said...

Oh please! Your amended strategy is nicer than mine. I just throw out the junk and cover it over in the trashcan with something else that I'm throwing away. I, too, am a minimalist (I didn't use to be) and my daughter is just like I used to be...a hoarder. I am struggling with teaching our children that "people are more important than things" and "we need to cling to the Lord and not things." It's a tough balance. You're not terrible!

JenB said...

Oh my no. You're nicer about it than I am. Mine come home with more junk from church than I can handle. There are days I deposit them in the trash can on the way out the church door! ha!

The Milams said...

I love this post...mostly because I am happy to know that another man wears t-shirts with years from other decades on them. When our 16 year old neice requested some vintage fraternity shirts from my husbands closet, I couldn't box them up fast enough!!

I am definitely guilty of tossing junk toys. I have been busted a few times, but for the most part, it's not a big deal at our house.

The Cole's est 2002 said...

I do the same thing...exactly. My sister lets my niece keep all those little trinket things and it drives me nuts. Flash cards out of preschool magazines, plastic rings from Chuck E Cheese, every art project from story time...it is too much for anyone to have a place for. This month in the happy meal is a siren for the bedroom door...That one may turn up missing!

MamaTee said...

I do basically the same thing.

Living as a family of 5 in a 31 foot trailer means I really can't keep any extras - only what's necessary and the couple of pictures I can fit on the fridge door, lol!

My children also have "treasures" they don't really "treasure". One of my solutions is to take a picture of the treasure (this works especially great for kids artwork), and toss the actual item after a day or two. It is rarely, if ever, missed and if they do happen to miss it, we can look at the picture together and talk about it - which usually works great for my boys (I know it might not work for all kids though). The nice thing about it is that since I don't print the pictures out, they take up zero space in my home (just a little space on my hard drive), and I will still be able to treasure their artwork for years to come. Most often I actually prefer the photos to the artwork itself as I can take pictures of the item while it is being created, and also of the proud boy holding up his creation afterwards.

It is hard to teach a child that things are just "things" and they really don't matter in the long run. I have to watch that I am modeling this mindset myself. We talk often about "storing up treasure in heaven where moths and rust do not destroy and theives do not break in and steal..." (Matthew 6:20)

So don't feel guilty. You are teaching your children a timeless principal!

Tee
http://homeschoolblogger.com/schoolonwheels

Beth/Mom2TwoVikings said...

DaHubby's stuff is off limits.

As for the Vikings, random, miscellanous, multitudious piles of paper from scribbling, drawing, coloring,e tc. are fair game for sorting and purging.

And, when Flicka balks at picking up her room, I provide her with a choice: YOU pick it all up and find a place for everything OR MOM gets to clean up and *SHE* decides what stays and what goes.

And, at this point the lesson of neatness and stewardship of stuff is more important to me than the hording, I guess.

KirkKrew said...

I think you're handling the situation perfectly! I try to eliminate some of the junk before it starts by not giving them the 99th kids meal toy and once they get a new one, we throw the old away.

My biggest problem is all of the "projects" from school. I have only kept the ones that include a picture they've drawn or a picture of them on it. The little worksheets go discreetly in the trash. I have a flat storage bin that I keep all the special ones.

The one week plan is a good one too! I'll have to start using that one for sure.

Kelli said...

As a recent hoarder gone purger because of the joy I felt during nesting, I think what you are doing is great! I think that I will try that with my little one because I don't want our house to become a cluttered mess!

Cheri (aka "The Mom Lady") said...

When we moved to New Orleans years ago after spending almost 10 years in Europe, I was sick of the mass of toys collected and decided to "cull the herd" by slipping bits and pieces of cars, Ninja Turtles, etc. into the packing paper and putting it in the piles of boxes to be collected by the movers to be trashed. Oh, I thought I was so clever!

About 2 weeks after the boxes had been taken away, my doorbell rings and there, with all my children BEHIND me, I find a representative from the moving company with a big box in his hands. "Ma'am? We were tearing down the boxes from your move and found all these toys that were mixed up in the paper."

Busted. I was SO busted.