It’s clutter I usually ignore, the toys strewed here and there in our family room, in the play area behind the couch.
While I often sit on that couch to watch movies with my boys, the area behind it is theirs and I’ve taken a very lenient view of what it needs to look like. As long as they aren’t bothered by it, I’m not either.
Or I wasn’t, until recently.
There’s nothing that inspires the urge to purge and declutter quite like the possibility of a move. The idea of packing up all of our belongings is overwhelming enough as it is without taking things with us we don’t actually use.
So, while the kids were at school, I dug into their toys.
Putting some of the toys back into the bins on the shelf that I knew they’d want to keep: mostly LEGOs, Magnatiles, and board games.
Random broken toys or the odd pieces that belonged to toys and games they no longer own went into the trash.
Then I made a pile of the toys that are still in good shape but that I haven’t seen them play with in a long time, figuring their cousin could come over and pick any he wanted before we donated the rest to some of the kindergarten teachers at our school, who always seem to want this sort of thing.
It went surprisingly fast and the toy bins were less than a third full, a manageable amount.
But then I looked at what we were keeping and then at the large pile of things to give away. There was so little left on those shelves and what was there were the toys of kids who weren’t babies or even little kids any more.
The giveaway pile was full of action figures and cars and wooden blocks… things that have littered my house for the past 12 years. The things that announced to anyone who’d walk in that this was a house full of little boys at play.
And I was getting rid of it all. I was throwing out their childhood with both hands.
The idea of leaving it all behind, while it sounded practical just moments before, suddenly seemed like too big of a step into growing up and I had this mad impulse to put it all back, to turn back the clock to when there were toddlers underfoot, zooming toy cars around the floor, making accompanying noises and sometimes crashing those cars into my bare feet as I tried to make dinner or clean up some other mess.
We’re so far from those days.
So I left that pile where it was, determined to let others with younger kids put those toys to use.
But then my boys got home from school and asked about the pile.
I told them it was toys I didn’t think they played with any more, that we were going to give to someone else… unless I was wrong and they wanted some of it.
One got a box and swept all of the blocks into it, insisting he wanted to build something with them.
Another plucked up a few toy cars and replaced them on the shelves.
The last separated out some of the superheroes and placed them on top of his dresser.
The pile that was left was much smaller and easier to let go of, now that they had scooped up some bits of their childhood I almost threw away.