Monday, August 11, 2014

Culling the Abandonned Toys

My friend A is in the middle of two projects:  she's writing a series of essays about the process of getting rid of stuff;  and she's in the throes of reducing her very large inventory of books by about a third.  We were talking yesterday about the essays, and then about the culling itself.  We were trying to deconstruct the uncomfortable feeling that the collecting and keeping of stuff helps to keep at bay.  I'm sure it's different for different people, but maybe there's a common element.  I'm pretty smug about not being a big collector, but compared to my mother who was known to rip the duvet off a bed and pack it off to hurricane victims while the owner was spending the night at a friend's house, I am deeply addicted to holding on to a few certain things.  So what's that all about?

I can easily go through my clothing and get rid of bagsful with no remorse.  I can even flick books off of shelves and never even look through them before tossing them-- if they're mouldy or sticky, away they go.  If they're books that I don't even remember reading, away they go.  I don't acquire tons of kitchen things, and we don't even have a proper basement or an attic.  But there is one area that makes me really sad to cull:  the old grandchildren toys.

I never had trouble dumping the children's toys and outgrown clothing and equipment-- my sister-in-law and I would sling bags of baby clothes back and forth across the country to each other, not even sure who actually owned what.  We were so happy to be finished with two-year-olds, with four-year-olds.  No nostalgia there!  When the first grandchildren arrived, I began to assemble a little collection of books and toys and art supplies for when they came to visit.  And since the grandchildren have never actually lived with us, all my memories of their earlier selves and these earlier days are totally pleasant.  Predictably, these toys have taken on a magical (if fictitious) significance. 

But now the reality is that the really young grandchild lives far away and spends at most a week here each year;  and the local grandchildren have grown far, far beyond the sacred toys.  But still I retrieve these things from Jesse, I dust them sometimes, I don't even consider getting rid of them.  And why on earth is that? Do I really believe the pre-teen kids themselves will come looking for that yellow plastic pounding toy? that dried out plasticene clay?  And we'll all sit down for one more round of playing dinosaurs and lego man?

I decided to face the uncomfortable feeling and clean out the old toy shelves tonight.  It felt risky to toss the plastic animals-- suppose someone wanted them?  What would happen if the little raccoon book was gone?  I'm really curious about this feeling of uneasiness about getting rid of stuff. Anybody care to comment?


  1. i have started the immense job of clearing out and that includes toys. with no grandchildren at this point even imaginable, i have to rid myself. i found a mouse family in a box of toys, and was angry, how dare they? and yet, i left that box for who knows how many years in my garage. maybe it's ok to keep a little selection of things, build a box for them and they will be your tiny cabinet of curiosities. and throw the rest out happily? i don't know if i can do that, but i plan to try.

  2. Okay I am a total new comer to your blog. I love your sketchbooks BTW... Love Love Love them! You are talking here about nostalgic toys and I think I want to ball like a baby! My first grandbaby is due any day now (today is the due date)... I went through my childrens toys as they were growing out of them and saved the sentimental ones and put them in boxes and marked them with big letters..GRANDMA'S TOYS... They are downstairs on the dusty shelves waiting for retrieval. I cannot wait to be able to share these with my little kiddies. I tried being selective in the saving part, just wooden puzzles and metal cars, no girl's favorite kewpie doll. I feel so sentimental, thinking about them. It was really hard to pick out certain toys and throw others away. Very uncomfortable. So I cannot even imagine what it will be like on the other end..when the grandbabies have outgrown these things. Maybe my kids will want them for their own grandchildren? Maybe they will box them up with GRANDBABY TOYS written on them? What will the world be like in the future for our great great grandchildren??? Thank you so much for your blog...I will be back often!