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My Parent, My Mentor

Finding Harmony with the Never Ending Conflict between Sentiment and Clutter

A Unique Idea to Keep the Memories but Can the Clutter

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January 01, 2010
We all know the battle. Entering our kid's cluttered bedrooms can make us a bit queasy, but when push comes to shove, letting go of that first stuffed animal, that special snow-globe from vacation and all those cute outfits is tough business. And I don't mean for the kids. Sentiment and clutter is a difficult balancing act, especially when it comes to our kids. Most of us aren't seeking pristine, sterile rooms devoid of personality for our kids to live in. We know memories are important, but hanging on to too much leads to clutter, which impairs our memories and leaves us feeling overwhelmed, frustrated and angry. What to do? Find the balance. There is room in our lives to honor our sentiment and still create space that is open and free, the kind of free you can only get with de-cluttered space. Here are some easy strategies to help you strike a balance this winter.

Assess the Situation

For starters, where are you coming from? Are you modeling hoarding for your child? Do you wince when thinking of letting go of those baby booties even though the dog got hold of them and they no longer resemble – anything? Know if you are struggling. Be aware of your own sentimentality. Is your child a clutter bug? Know what you are dealing with.

Scrapbooking by Film AKA Preparing for the Purge

I have let go of so many of my kid's things with the flash of a camera. In our house, we prepare for the purge by taking pictures of things that are sentimental but no longer wanted. Hey, if it is crammed in a box in the attic, how much do you really love it anyway, right? Bring that digital camera out and have a photo extravaganza with your child. This is particularly fabulous for the collection of 10,000 plush animals that can take over entire rooms and for school projects, like the quintessential "shoebox diorama." Think about how horrific that cotton-ball snow will look in 2 years. An artsy camera shot is sentiment full and clutter free! And believe me, if you can get into this, your child will be able to as well. Remember, what is important to kids is the memory. You can preserve that with a great shot.

Pu-pu-pu-purge! You can do it!

Purging is about letting go of the things that can hold us back. Allow me an example. I was going through an old box recently from when my daughter was in kindergarten. I had saved EVERYTHING. None of it made any sense at all. I mean, I couldn't even read much of what she had written. All of it had lost its meaning. I ditched 90% of it and saved a small amount for the album I am making for her. Because I was able to let go of most of it, I was able to get the things I did save into a memory book in a matter of less than an hour. Practice letting go and see how free you and your child feel!

Tying the Knot

Now you want to bring it all together. I use a very simple method. A three ring binder with pocket protectors and some archive-safe 8 ½" x 11" paper. The kids can help make these "everyman" scrapbooks, but I have to ask—whose scrapbook is better? Is it my perfect one with matching trim or my son's—complete with a picture of him sitting next to a pilot on a plane and his own quote underneath the shot, "cockpit cool?" Tie it all together with a simple and adjustable three-ring binder system that your kids will love and will leave plenty of space for your kids to breathe in their rooms. Striking the balance between sentiment and freedom from clutter is at our fingertips if we just take a few steps in the right direction.

Maria Murphy is a speaker, consultant and writer. Her book and blog column can be found at www.simplyputtogether.com. Maria Murphy writes a monthly mentoring column for Tutor/Mentor Connection of Chicago, http/www.tutormentorconnection.org. Her column is distributed throughout mentoring agencies of N/E Florida through Kessler Mentoring Connection at http/www.mentoringconnection.org. She is also a columnist for My Nassau Sun, a subsidiary of the Jacksonville Times Union.

Tags: Parenting

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