Some of the stuff we’ve saved over the years is laughing at us. Those keepsakes from our kids’ lives that we stashed away to pass down to them? The ones we envisioned handing over as forever-memories? If you tiptoe past that leaning tower o’ stuff, you’ll hear a soft chortle, because the stuff knows the truth.

Nobody wants those things.

You’ve collected a big pile of sentimentality that exists mostly to take up space:

every report card your child ever brought home;

book reports throughout the ages;

art projects involving torn construction paper, popsicle sticks, and cotton balls.

Nope. There’s not a world where your adult kid says, “Let me haul that big pile of stuff from your house to mine.”

You will have better luck with other items:


the teensy shirt worn on Baby’s trip home from the hospital;

that lock of hair from the first haircut.

But ….

refrigerator art,

school celebration photos filled with kids your child can no longer name,

birthday/holiday cards. Lots and lots of birthday/holiday cards. Like, nearly every birthday/holiday card your child ever received.

Not a chance.

The truth is, you never saved those things for your kids in the first pace. You saved them for yourself.

If you can spare about a quarter of the space this stuff currently occupies, do it. Be brave and cull through the pile. Working with the wisdom of hindsight, get rid of anything that isn’t a seminal reflection of your child’s journey (goodbye, weekly book report; hello, term paper). Indulge in a little ritual if necessary: pour a glass of wine, light a candle, and say goodbye to documenting every single moment of the childhood your kid left years ago.

But keep the basics, because you weren’t wrong:

greeting cards from loved ones present and past;

notes and letters your child wrote while growing up;

yearly school portraits reflecting change in both appearance and attitude.

Like that nice wine I hope you grant yourself, some things grow in value as they age. Even if your kids never feel a pull to revisit their own pasts, the next generation will love mementos such as

autograph books from the 1940s, signed by family and friends,

high school newspaper articles written by the 1950s teenager who aspired to be a journalist,

baby pics and posed family portraits.

I’m glad somebody saved these snapshots of my parents’ lives. They shine even more brightly because they’re not buried in an overwhelming deluge of miscellaneous stuff.

I suppose the trick is to curate rather than collect.