Earlier this month my children and I escaped the cold, brown atmosphere of early spring in Utah for warm, sunny Las Vegas. One day we went to the Springs Preserve, an area dedicated to nature and history—I silently congratulated myself on choosing such a lovely, non-commercial outing after the kids spent hours in a museum learning all about the ecology of the Mojave Desert and the history of Las Vegas. But, then, we had to exit through the gift shop. Oh, the treasures in the gift shop! And Grandpa was willing to buy them treasures that they could take home! At least twenty minutes were spent discussing the relative merits of the coloring books, model dinosaurs, and gemstones available for purchase. I groaned inside as my nine-year-old picked out a four-foot-long plush snake (I was picturing the pile of stuffed animals already residing in our basement as well as the numerous pillows and friends currently living in her bed). My six-year-old picked out a toy turtle egg that could be placed in water, with the promise that within 48 hours a turtle would appear. We took the turtle egg back to Grandma and Grandpa’s house, placed it in water, watched it faithfully for two days, and a toy turtle really did hatch. It was amazing. There was much weeping and wailing a few days later after we returned to our own house, left the turtle on the counter, and one of our cats chewed all its limbs off.

Now, a few weeks later, Mr. Turtle is buried somewhere in my son’s room, along with all the other pieces of extra special artwork, trinkets from birthday parties and the dentist, bookmarks, Lego projects, and books that he has accumulated. We try and clean out his room periodically, as well as those of his two sisters, and I feel that one of my hardest tasks as a parent is to try and teach my children how to throw things away. I often feel overwhelmed by the amount of possessions we have; even by United States standards, we are not wealthy, but my children have more than enough toys, clothes, and books to meet their needs. They bring home papers from school and church; they get trinkets from the dentist office and school; they love to spend their allowance at gift shops and the dollar bin at Target. When I read in Little House on the Prairie about Laura’s few, prized trinkets or her one, special Christmas cake, I feel a little bit of envy about the simplicity of life back then and a little shame at our modern, materialistic ways.

And yet, I can remember being a kid and the thrill of owning things. My very own possessions—things I didn’t have to share with anyone and that all had special meaning to me. I had a dresser with four drawers, and two of those drawers were my “treasure drawers”. I saved all kinds of things: postcards from places we had visited, birthday cards from relatives, pretty rocks and shells, a variety of things with Shamu on them, trinkets from carnival games or the dentist office, and so on. I loved to go through my “treasures”, organizing them and remembering the origin of each object. Tucked away in my cedar chest downstairs I still have a small box with some of those treasures. A tiny ceramic unicorn that I bought from the school store in fourth grade, after saving all my “gold bucks” for months. Two felt mice that I got at a truck stop in Idaho and inexplicably named Poughkeepsie and Jube. An odd little animal skull found on a beach in California. Each of these things brings back particular, specific memories. Perhaps someday my children will go through my things, find this box of treasures, and throw it away while wondering why their mother was so strange. That’s OK—I do the same thing to them right now; if only I could convince them that they will not miss those special candy wrappers a few years from now.

If you have kids, do you ever feel like they need an intervention from Hoarders? When you were a kid, did you have special treasures too? Do you still have them as an adult?



  1. Jendoop

    April 26, 2013

    Yes! This is one reason I’m anti-handouts for church lessons, primary, YW, and RS. It seems like we subconsciously tell children that the lesson alone isn’t enough, being nourished by the Spirit isn’t enough, you need “stuff” or it’s not meaningful. That goes for food too!

    I’ve kept some things from my past, but we’ve moved so much it’s not pleasant to cart it all around. The thing I hang onto is thank you notes, and letters. They’re easier to care for than my ceramic unicorn collection from 4th grade, which found its way to the trash long ago.

  2. Gina

    April 26, 2013

    A few years ago I got each of my kids one of those canvas basket things from Target to be their treasure box. They can keep whatever they want in it, but that is the extent of their space for random doodads. It’s worked really well. My husband and I are generally pretty ruthless throwers-away of stuff, but if they want to keep something and there is room for it in their treasure box, no problem. It gives them both autonomy and limits.

  3. Julie K

    April 26, 2013

    I read something that said, “I smuggle broken crayons out of the house like a Mexican drug lord,” and died laughing because of how true it is. I’m such a throw-er away-er that my kids junk drives me crazy. I’ve heard of the one bin per kid idea and really like it, I just need to get around to instituting it.

  4. jkfrome

    April 26, 2013

    Umm…I still have several file boxes of treasured papers and things from each of the five children who lived in our home. They’re all older now that I was when I gave birth to them…come and get your stuff!! Seriously, it is so hard to part with the detritus of your childhood. I have things from my childhood (that happened a half a century ago)and looking at some of those papers I wrote and little objects I kept makes me happy all over again.

  5. Lisa S

    April 27, 2013

    Loved this post….I’m the opposite. I try and save things, art or written pieces from my girls, now 22 and 19 after they have put it in the trash bag. I have been known to go through the trash bag they leave in the room, pulling out items that I think they might like to show their kids later…..the thing is I’m still a little far off from being a grandma, let alone one who has g-kids that would appreciate seeing these things.

  6. Sage

    April 28, 2013

    Yes. Yes!

    My kids play with the tiniest little baby bottle that was one of my treasures. I can’t believe I’ve hung onto it all these years. It’s about 3/4 inch long and maybe 1/4 in circumfirence.

    And I save thank you notes, letters and too many kids drawings. I’ve been putting them in binders in sheet protectors. It’s been a hard road for me to pare down. I save old syllabi from favorite college courses too.

    And my house is now for sale so I have to be super tidy! What a challenge!

    I am learning to pare down. My kids don’t have a junk drawer like I do. And they know I throw way broken toys and complain about how much stuff we have.

  7. m2theh

    May 1, 2013

    I have learned you carry stuff directly to the big trash outside when no one is looking, or you have to bury it down really deep and pile stuff on top of it. I make my daughter pick artwork to toss from the fridge if she is insistent on keeping something she drew.

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