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By Cheryl Bac

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About this blog: I'm a wife, stay-at-home mom, home cook, marathon runner, and PhD. I recently moved to the Silicon Valley after completing my PhD in Social Psychology and becoming a mother one month apart. Before that, I ran seven marathons incl...  (More)

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A Bittersweet Book

Uploaded: Jan 11, 2014
A couple months ago I stumbled upon a used book sale. My son and I had a great time picking out a huge pile of children's books to take home. Some of these books turned into instant favorites while others were put away until my son is a little older. One book was especially bittersweet. It was a Thomas the Tank Engine book that was originally given to a child as his preschool graduation gift. The child's teachers wrote congratulations and wished him luck as he moved on to kindergarten.

My first thought was that I needed to locate this preschool and get an application. Those teachers' comments were warm, caring, and personal! Sounds like a school that we should check out for our son. My next thought was whether this book was donated in error. How could anyone donate a book with such sentimental value?

Then I looked around the room and I got my answer - it's impossible to hold on to every last sentimental item. My son isn't even two yet and we are trying to figure out where his cards, drawings and handprints should all go. I'm sure I'll soon have to start narrowing down these sentimental items. Some things will need to be tossed or donated.

How do you deal with the accumulation of sentimental "stuff"? Be it photos, cards, or hand prints. Do you take a mental snapshot before donating it? put treasured items in a box? or live in the moment?
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Posted by Joanna, a resident of another community,
on Jan 11, 2014 at 10:44 am

I documented them with my camera. Through the preschool years, I took pictures of my favorite paintings and projects, then made a simple Art Book with my digital photos. I used the "auto-fill" feature on my iPhoto computer program. I felt good letting go of those early pieces that were near and dear to my heart, yet difficult to store. For the 3-D glue projects, I photographed my daughter holding the piece the week she had brought it home. The pride and glint in the eye is precious. The grandmothers received copies as Mother's Day gifts that year.

Posted by CherylBac, a resident of Menlo Park,
on Jan 11, 2014 at 11:42 am

CherylBac is a registered user.

Joanna - Thank you for reading and commenting! I love the idea of taking photographs of art projects - especially with your daughter proudly holding them. What a special Mother's Day gift for the grandparents. I scrapbook a lot, so the idea of turning these photos into a book sounds perfect for our family. Thanks again for sharing.

Posted by Sally Torbey, a resident of Palo Alto High School,
on Jan 11, 2014 at 2:32 pm

This is an ongoing struggle for me as well! My adult children's rooms are still shrines to their childhoods packed with photos, trophies, artwork, certificates, and other treasures from their youth. The photographing idea helps a lot. I also try to remember something an elementary school art teacher told me when I was lamenting my inability to discard my kids' work, but overwhelmed by the quantity we'd accumulated. She reminded me that it is the process, not the product, that is important. The experience of creating the artwork is a part of the child and will be with them forever. Treasure the child and you are treasuring the artwork. Somehow that made it easier for me to part with some of it.

Posted by Mother of 4, a resident of Palo Verde School,
on Jan 11, 2014 at 2:56 pm

It is hard. Photography does make it easier, but there are times that you will make mistakes. Asking the child doesn't help because they have no idea what you are talking about.

Keeping boxes of stuff can help. Some of it can be a "time capsule" to open in say 5 years. Some of it can be kept for you to keep more than the child to keep. Some of it can be kept for use when younger children visit (or grandchildren in time).

But, from my perspective, it is the first 10 years that you have the trouble with. After than the kids seem to manage to do it themselves - although always go through what they want to recycle or donate. But once they reach the age of 10 it is usually smaller items or just easy to store items rather than elaborate art projects that you will want to keep.

Posted by CherylBac, a resident of Menlo Park,
on Jan 11, 2014 at 6:50 pm

CherylBac is a registered user.

Sally Torbey - Thanks for reading and commenting. What a fantastic message from your children's art teacher. I'll keep that in mind for when the art projects start rolling in.

Mother of 4 - Thanks for reading and commenting. A time capsule is an excellent idea. What a great way to reminisce and see how much the child has grown in 5 short years.

Posted by Jessica T, a resident of Menlo Park,
on Jan 12, 2014 at 12:13 pm

Such a great topic worthy of exploration. We've tried to have our oldest go through "special items" that have accumulated in her room each school year to select what she wants to hold on to, but to echo Sally, the struggle continues in our home too!

Posted by Cheryl Bac, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Jan 12, 2014 at 3:17 pm

Cheryl Bac is a registered user.

Thanks for reading and commenting Jessica T. At what age did you start involving your daughter in the process? It's probably not easy for most parents or children to part with this accumulation of sentimental stuff.

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