by Charlotte Hilton Andersen, REDBOOK
Mother's Day 2011 is officially over-mine was lovely, thanks for asking- and we are now into the lesser-known, but equally momentous Day After Mother's Day. This day is marked by the cry of mothers everywhere: "What do I do with all this stuff??"
The stuff I am referring to of course is the beautiful, precious, thoughtful, often homemade gifts given to us by our beautiful, precious, thoughtful children. Candles, cards, tissue-paper flowers, bookmarks and anything and everything that can hold a wee hand print are scattered across the house and while I was sincere when I expressed my adoration of each tiny treasure (truly, children if you are reading this 10 years down the road, I really really do love them) after a few years and a few children the amount of crafts becomes overwhelming. Short of opening my own MoMA (Museum of Mother Art) or ending up on Hoarders, I realized I need a strategy to deal with the avalanche of construction paper.
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Two things you should know:
1. My children make the cutest, funniest, most wonderful presents ever. My favorite from yesterday was from my second son who in filling out the ubiquitous "mom survey" answered "I love my mom best when..." with "she's away." See? He thinks I deserve a mom-cation too!
2. With very few exceptions, I throw all of them away.
Oh don't worry, the treasures sit on my dresser (and the fridge and the nightstand and every wall in the house) for an appropriate length of time-we still have a cardboard approximation of Rudolph gracing our front door at this very moment-but eventually they all go to the great recycle bin in the sky. I like to think that the people at the recycling center are just as amused as I was by my son's portrait of me forcing him to fold laundry until he was so old he grew a (green crayon) beard. See, on the spectrum of mom clutter I fall on the kamikaze end. It's not that I'm completely unsentimental; I'm just not that attached to paper goods.
In my experience, moms fall into one of three categories: the Keepers of Everything, the Keepers of Nothing and the Keepers of Whatever Doesn't Get Lost in the Minivan. And like most things parenting, emotions run high on this topic. "I cannot believe you threw it away!" my sister gasped when I confessed to ditching the hand-crafted pottery thingy from my 3rd grader. "Please tell me you did not throw that away." Oh, but I did. And I'm not sorry.
I do realize I am in the minority. "I don't like clutter either, but there's no way I could throw away those sweet little drawings!" said Kelly, a good mom friend of mine, a tear misting her eye. "Honestly I don't know how you can bear it!" Actually what I can't bear are the mounds of mess that children produce on a daily basis. A cluttered counter top weighs more heavily on my mind than the chance that my 30-year-old son will miss the two-decades-old bar of soap he whittled in Cub Scouts. I don't have a lock of hair from their first haircut, nor did I keep the outfit they came home from the hospital in, and not even their first certificate for Student of the Month for Friendship. It's gotten to the point where my kids have started looking through the trash can and squirreling their goodies away under their beds.
My friend Angie has a middle ground born of regret, love and AAA batteries: "I take a picture of my kid holding whatever it is and then when he's not looking, I throw it away." I latched onto Angie's idea like Charlie Sheen to a microphone and started snapping away. But soon the clutter on my hard drive began to bother me too. Angie prints out the pictures and puts them in scrapbooks for her kids to look at. I like that idea, but I haven't printed out a picture in four years, much less scrapbooked anything. My friend Liz's answer to this is a set of rotating picture frames - the kids can put whatever they want in their frames, but then they have to get rid of whatever isn't in the frames thereby making her kids do the hard part.
Will I regret this down the road? Perhaps. There are already many parenting decisions I regret. But consider the last time you looked at your bronzed baby shoes before you condemn me.
- I keep everything; they're only little once!
- I keep a few things but get rid of most of it.
- I have found the middle ground and I'll tell you about it the comments!
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