As I've mentioned a couple times in the past week or so, I brought home a load of stuff from my parents' house after the weekend there with my brother's family. When I arrived on Friday, there were probably about 10 boxes sitting in the family room, some for John and some for me. When I started going through them, I realized that this process was going to be a challenge.
See, there are obviously some things that are instant keepers, and there's usually a couple of things that are junk or simply didn't survive 30 years in the attic very well. But the in between stuff is the real challenge, and I think it breaks down into a couple categories. First, there's the stuff you have an attachment to, but no real use for. Being a girl with two sons, it's especially difficult. I know I got some of my mom's things when I was a kid--a couple really beautiful dolls, her Barbies, and a cool metal dollhouse with furniture. But without a girl for me, who gets the girly books or the cool dolls? I don't want to just get rid of them, but it seems silly to have things sitting in a bin for years on end, taking up space. The other category is the stuff that you feel just enough of an allegiance to that you hate to throw it out, but you also don't love it enough to waste space by keeping it. Adding to the problem is that it's probably not the best stuff to donate either. For example, I had a couple teddy bears--my first bears, in fact--and honestly, they just weren't that cute or cuddly. I knew my kids wouldn't want them, and I would feel terrible tossing them, but they're so old that it seems silly to donate them. There are some things that fall into this category that would probably do well on eBay, if I wanted to get into that, but that takes time and effort.
Once I had looked through the attic boxes, I decided I also needed to make a trip up to my old room, where there were still a number of boxes in the closet. One was full of books, and the others were more animals and a few other random things. I plodded through those, carefully sorting books and animals into piles. It was mentally and emotionally exhausting, balancing logic and nostalgia for each item. It's just...hard. It's sort of like the moment of truth for Andy in the last Toy Story movie. Are his toys going to sit in a box forever just so he can keep them, or are they better off moving on to another phase, in his case brightening the life of another kid?
In the end I brought home half a dozen boxes. Two of those boxes were books. One box contained mostly books for Jacob--slightly bigger kid books that I think he can grow into. There are a lot of mysteries and some Choose Your Own Adventure books. I also kept a couple "classics" that I thought might work down the road--James and the Giant Peach, Dear Mr. Henshaw, Sideways Stories from Wayside School--but that I knew he'd turn his nose up at now. Hopefully he'll give them a chance. I think he might enjoy them if he let himself try. The other box of books was a selection of littler kid books for Carter. Of course, bringing home a load like that meant that we had some reorganizing to do.
Coincidentally, Jacob had said the other day that I could move all of his books into Carter's room. In the end I left some--some of his longtime favorites along with any more recent acquisitions that I thought he might still find entertaining at some point. But the vast majority got taken out and replaced almost perfectly by the new books. Meanwhile, in Carter's room things were already a bit cramped, but part of that was because I had his tallest books laying down on his bookshelf. I happened to notice an empty crate (the plastic kind, presumably from college) in our basement, so I grabbed that and took it up to his room. I put the tallest books in there, filled the remaining space with Jacob's old books and my old books, and had just enough room in the crate for one specific set of books that didn't quite fit on the main shelf. In the end it was perfect, and Carter loves his extra little shelf. It'll be much easier for him to access those tall books, too, I think.
I managed to distribute a couple animals and some other books and puzzles to the boys, and most of the rest fit in one bin. The one exception was my Rose Petal Place dolls and house. I am torn as to what to do with them, but for now I'll keep them. They'd be an eBay possibility someday, but I really did love them! I might have sent them home with my niece if the house wasn't so bulky!
Back at my parents' house there is still some stuff waiting for me. My bedroom closet still holds my Barbie collection (at least two Barbies, two Skippers, and one Ken, plus my mom's Barbie and Ken, and assorted clothes, a fold-up house, and a fully stocked kitchen). My Cabbage Patch dolls and a box full of clothes are still there, too. There were a couple more boxes in the attic my mom didn't bring down yet. She knows my Strawberry Shortcake dolls are up there. There was also one toy that came down in the first load that made me realize I had two more from the same line. They were called Wish World Kids, and they were convertible toys that started as a piece of furniture and opened up into a fantasy playset. The one that I have now is a TV that turns into a TV game show set. In looking through the booklet in the box, I realized I'm 99% sure I had a dresser that became a hair salon and a refrigerator that turned into a soda shoppe, I'm hoping those other two are still up there, too. Even though I totally forgot about them, just seeing the one took me back to being 10 or 11 years old and being so excited about getting them!
All of this has gotten me thinking, though, about these same decisions with the boys' toys. I've thought about their clothes a lot over the years, but now that we're starting to outgrow the little baby stuff, I'm really having to think about what will stay and what will go, not just for memory's sake, but for possible grandchildren! They might be as little as 15 years away, after all! So far I have a couple memory bins for the kids. They hold artwork, baby souvenirs, birthday cards, and anything else that I thought was important to keep. I have thoughts in mind about what sorts of clothes I might want to grab out of the dozen bins in the basement. Definitely one of Carter's tiny newborn outfits, the boys' Christening outfit, Jacob's first baseball cap, and a couple of favorite shirts that have stood out to me over the years. But what about the toys? There will be animals, no doubt. The Legos, Playmobil, and Little People are keepers. I'll keep around the Incrediblock and the Peek-a-Blocks because they're pretty cool and universal. If it survives Carter, Jacob's Imaginext Batcave might survive, though it's a pain to store, so maybe not. We have so many toys around here, but how much am I willing to keep around? What will mean the most to them 20 or 30 years from now?
This experience has definitely been food for thought. It's hard to encapsulate your childhood (or your child's) into a handful of toys, outfits, or keepsakes, but I guess we have to give it a try, just so we have something to hang on to (literally) when the rest of it fades away.