Trash or Treasure?

the boat.

This is a picture of a boat made from a hollowed out  piece of soap and some toothpicks. It was made at camp this summer and has been drifting around our house for the past six weeks.

Over the past three years, John’s schools and camps have produced an astonishing number of artifacts like this. We have a surprisingly large paper mache Jabba the Hut, stacks of paintings, a clay diorama that has something to do with an island, a set of mouse ears made from a cereal box, some kind of imaginary guitar also made from a cereal box, and a life size painting of John himself. And that’s the tip of the iceberg. I assume that people who have more than one kid can hardly get in the door for all the crafts that pile up.

This is the flotsam and jetsam of life in grammar school. I know John worked hard on them the day or the week they were created, so I’m happy to admire them as they are (endlessly) unpacked from the backpack. But I also have the feeling that within a week or so, they could probably be gently repacked in the recycling bin. Perhaps to be reborn as someone else’s camp project! Circle of life.

But to John, these are treasures. Apparently every time he looks at them, he is transported back to the fun he had making them or the world he was creating at the time. They can never be recycled. They can never disappear. He needs them all. Forever. You don’t even want to see his closet.

Wise parents will probably already have guessed my strategic error here. Have you? Yes, I’m asking him before I disappear his treasures. If I didn’t bring it up, he’d never see that soap boat again and he’d never miss it. But I feel bad about throwing out treasures so I always ask, and the answer is always no. He’s never going to choose to edit his collection. I have a similar problem with toys, books and stuffed animals. Hence the insanity in the closet.

Anyway, we’ll eventually be moving to a new and hopefully much smaller house, so we’re all going to have to turn over a new leaf or two around here. (Matt, the only coffee drinker in the house, doesn’t need thirty mugs. I certainly don’t need a bin full of decades-old fabric that I might someday make something out of.) Don’t tell John, but we’re going to start paring down. More specifically, I am going to start paring down. With or without permission. I have a year to work on this. Maybe I can at least make a dent.

7 thoughts on “Trash or Treasure?

  1. Perfect opportunity to teach charity. Educate him on the children that would love to have some of those toys that he no longer uses and how good it would feel to donate them himself. Find a shelter where he could actually turn over a treasured toy to a less fortunate child, so he can see their face light up. Some reward them with something new for every so many old items they part with, but I feel they should just learn the joy of giving. The hand made “treasures” may be more of a challenge !

    • Excellent point, and we’ve definitely been talking about that with regard to toys and “softies,” the million stuffed animals we have. I think he’s willing to get on board there. But as far as the cereal box mouse ears go, I think they may just have to go.

  2. Take a picture of the art work before cleaning up and then it can be included in a scrapbook. Making a book from sights like shutterfly are fast and easy!

  3. Years ago, a friend told me she had a plastic bin for each of her kids to store their treasures in. When the bin was full, it was up to them what item they would take out to make room for a new favorite thing. I found the idea genius, but never followed up with her to see how it worked through the years. It didn’t work for me because my kids wanted to toss things that I wanted to keep. I fail to follow this rule in my own clothes closet and have agonized over what crafts and school papers of my kids to keep. I have designated “forever boxes” for each of my kids, but purchased the biggest plastic tubs I could find! In those bins are baby clothes, school papers, crafts, birthday cards, etc. but everything has to fit My kids are grown now and the collecting has ended, but the memories remain. I went through the bins a couple of years ago and took pictures of a lot of them to store in a file on the computer (backed up of course). I use them as screen savers now, especially for holiday seasons.

    • This is so smart. I can’t tell you how many plastic bins I have. I may just put John in charge of one of them and let him do his own weeding out!

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