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“THIS STUFF HAS ALREADY SERVED ITS PURPOSE” : A Millennial’s Perspective on Childhood Stuff

By October 12, 2015 8 Comments

Two of my adult children were recently home at the same time—yahoo! As we finished eating, my oldest son Joe said, “Mom, I want to look through my boxes of stuff. I hope I still have my old Bengals jersey!”

It was very easy to find the bins with his childhood memories. I had spent some time last summer sorting, purging, and organizing my children’s  accumulation of items. All the labeled bins were stacked along the back of the garage wall. There were about 2 or 3 plastic bins with secure lids for each of my children. (Disclaimer: There are quite a few more bins I kept to share with the grandchildren, but they contain only the very best toys and games, not everything my children ever played with!) The bins were easy to access, easy to handle, and easy to put away.

Joe and my middle daughter Lisa thoroughly enjoyed going through their things, especially since it had already been sorted and put away neatly. It was a reasonable amount to go through in a few hours. I loved listening to their comments!

“I had so much fun with this!”

“Remember when we played with this!”

“Why did I have so many watches?”

“Where did this come from?”

“I’m so glad we kept that!”

“I have no idea why I kept this!”

“Pretty sure I will never wear that again!”

“Oh no, more rocks!”

However, my favorite comment was:

“This stuff has already served its purpose, Mom;
I don’t need it anymore!”

As they continued to look at their stuff, they realized that it wasn’t all treasures. Some things just weren’t meaningful anymore. They also decided that you just can’t keep everything that has your name on it—that alone doesn’t automatically make it a special keepsake.

As a Baby Boomer mom, I notice articles almost every week about how most Millennials (all three of my children fall in this demographic of being born between 1980-2000) simply do not want all the memory stuff we have saved for many years! They are more willing to keep just a few special things, not everything they ever played with or every paper with their name on it. They tend to like things lean and light! So at least I was somewhat prepared for them to not want everything.


Here’s a list of some of the stuff that didn’t make their cut: rocks, trophies, hats, posters, award plaques, achievement ribbons, cheap jewelry, more rocks, trinkets, ceramic animals, wallets, watches, stuffed animals, tote bags, and old eye glasses.  


I enjoyed watching them make decisions about what was meaningful to them. And perhaps they will eliminate a few more items the next time they look at this stuff. I don’t mind keeping these few bins until they can take them to their homes. I know that it is stuff they really want and that it will easily fit into the back of a car. I will donate the items they didn’t want.

Here is what I learned:

  1. Don’t try to keep everything your children have ever used; keep only the best! The fewer items you keep, the more valuable each one will be.
  2. Don’t assume anything—take the time to ask your children what they really want. And then graciously accept their answers.
  3. Make sure the items you keep are clean and useable.
  4. Sort like items together; put smaller items in zipbags; and wrap fragile items in paper.
  5. Use stackable plastic bins with secure lids and label each bin. I especially like the bins with side latches made by Sterilite. They come in different sizes, but stack together nicely. Because they are all the same brand and style, they take up less space than an odd assortment of containers.
  6. It is okay to set limits on how much you will keep. The bins we kept are stacked out of the way at the back of the garage. I can still easily park my car in the garage, plus have plenty of space for items I use frequently.
  7. Avoid using the attic as storage space. Most things get ruined due to the drastic temperature changes. Also, access to attics often poses safety hazards. Just not a good idea!
  8. It’s more fun to go through memory boxes with your family rather than by yourself.
  9. Remember that the most special memories will always be in your heart!

I’m glad that it was easy for Joe to find the Bengals jersey he wanted; he also was surprised to find a Bengals hat. Both were in great condition! I smiled when he said, “Sure am glad I didn’t waste money buying these at the game yesterday!” And I was glad that there were 2 more empty bins in my garage!

When can you find a special time to sort through childhood items and memories with your children? Maybe it could even be a new holiday tradition!  

Olive Wagar

Author Olive Wagar

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Join the discussion 8 Comments

  • Charlene says:

    Really cool, Olive. How fun!

    • Olive Wagar says:

      It really was a fun afternoon, Charlene! I loved listening to Joe & Lisa talk & laugh about their memories!! I delivered the extra stuff to a local thrift store today. One little boy at church was thrilled with a few extra things.

  • Michele says:

    We have done a lot of moving which meant getting rid of a lot of things. Each one of my kids has 1 box of childhood memories. I have also found it a good idea to take pictures. Some things you can take a picture of and then get rid of. I also take a picture of the special things just in case they get lost or destroyed. My box of childhood memories got water in the box and everything was destroyed.

    • Olive Wagar says:

      I know what you mean about moving, Michele! Great idea to take pictures of the children with special items. After having a basement flood in 2001, I quit using cardboard boxes. I also really like the plastic bins that have the sturdy latch lids. Thanks for your comments!

  • Ruth says:

    I agree that fewer items make them more valuable. I have been going through things at my parents’ home and found enough hatboxes to give to each of my mom’s granddaughters. Into the boxes I placed old hats, gloves, purses, interesting items, a piece of jewelry, and hankies from my mom, grandma and great-grandma. Each granddaughter will pick a hatbox of treasures to keep. They are special items, but the amount is not overwhelming and is easily stored.

  • Olive Wagar says:

    What a fabulous way to pass along these special treasures, Ruth! Such a creative use of the hat boxes!! I’m sure the granddaughters will truly enjoy these items.

  • Nancy says:

    Thanks, Olive, for this reminder twice told. We leave today for Corpus to put our house on the market so I needed to hear this word. The house has served its purpose and we don’t need it anymore…but someone else does!

  • Olive says:

    I’m glad you have so many happy memories of that house, Nancy. And that you can have peace of mind about moving on to another chapter of life!

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