Hanging on to the ‘stuff’ of childhood

I’ve no problem discarding my husband’s horrendous football shirts, but when it comes to my children’s outgrown things . . .

Jen Hogan and her seven children: “The real decluttering challenge comes with the mention of clothes that are too small to fit anyone in the house any longer and the contemplation and acceptance that that stage might be over for good.”

Jen Hogan and her seven children: “The real decluttering challenge comes with the mention of clothes that are too small to fit anyone in the house any longer and the contemplation and acceptance that that stage might be over for good.”

 

“We have five coats for a two-year-old hanging in the wardrobe,” came the call from my husband as he made yet another attempt to thin the mound of clothing that cluttered the very limited bedroom storage in the children’s rooms.

I, meantime, was downstairs attempting to make sense of the bane of my life, the playroom, which was overflowing with toys or, to be more precise, bits of toys. A pre-Christmas clear-out is always essential before Santa arrives with, eh, more toys.

“I’ll put them in the charity bag,” he added – a comment that was enough to see me race up the stairs at a speed an altogether less well-coordinated Usain Bolt might have considered mildly acceptable. You see, when it comes to sorting our kiddies’ clothes, I just don’t trust him. My husband is of a “if in doubt, chuck it out” disposition when it comes to such matters – the complete and polar opposite of me.

The great thing about having a large family is that there’s lots of “stuff” to pass on to other siblings. The bad thing about having a large family is that there’s lots of “stuff” you hang on to convincing yourself you’ll pass on to other siblings, but that really you just don’t want to part with in the first place. This can range from dangly, half-chewed, single-eyed toys that hung from a first child’s play-mat to a pair of much-loved wellie boots (well pair might be stretching it but I know the other one is somewhere in the house) to a top each child has worn, regardless of their gender.

It’s not that I’m an extreme hoarder. I’ll quite happily discard any of my hubby’s stuff with little more than a passing thought. I have no issue “losing” certain horrendous, gaudy-coloured football shirts that pass through the wash – and I figure nobody needs that many sports books!

When it comes my children’s possessions, however, there’s an emotional attachment and an association with so many memories.

But the real decluttering challenge comes with the mention of clothes that are too small to fit anyone in the house any longer and the contemplation and acceptance that that stage might be over for good. Another milestone in a year of milestones.

September saw me for the first time in 17 years have no child at home in the morning as the youngest began Montessori. The freedom of sorts to work temporarily uninterrupted was overshadowed a little by the magnitude of the milestone that had occurred. With my first-born on the cusp of adulthood and my youngest outgrowing things far more quickly than I’m prepared to discard them, an emotional rollercoaster has been unleashed – a year of first “lasts” and last “firsts”.

I’ve always found it hard to get my head around my children getting older. There was one brief exception to the experience when the shock of first-time motherhood and the relentless crying of an unsettled and sleep- resistant firstborn meant, for a period, I looked forward to it all becoming a bit more manageable.

Words of wisdom

When my daughter was born, my neighbour’s mother popped in to admire her, congratulate me and pass on some words of wisdom. “Oh enjoy this stage, it’s the best,” she said while peeking at my squawking bundle of joy who by now was as puce as her babygro from crying. In my sleep-deprived, milk-leaking, stitch-hurting, highly emotional state, I figured she was obviously barmy and so I just nodded at her in a near sympathetic manner

But nostalgia has a way of making you forget the slightly more challenging times of parenthood – the potty training horrors, the sleepless nights and mid-supermarket full-scale tantrums.

“I still can’t believe it’s her last year in school,” I said to my husband of our daughter, while surveying the clothes pile he was attempting to cull. “For once, I’m glad of the crippling Dublin mortgage,” I joked. “At least she’ll have to go to college in Dublin.

“I’m keeping two of those coats by the way – they have special meaning to me,” I said, moving quickly on and “I’ve cleared three bags worth from the playroom,” I added by way of compromise.

“Our ceiling is going to come down,” he grumbled as he put my bag of special-meaning clothes in the attic alongside our recently dismantled cot-bed.

“Well you never know, we might need them again,” I said, deciding I couldn’t yet accept the finality.

“And besides, there’ll be plenty of space available if you got rid of some of these programmes,” I added defensively, handing him an Ireland-All Black’s 1997 rugby match programme before running back downstairs, leaving him unsure which point to argue first.

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