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I Throw Away My Kids’ Stuff When They’re Not Looking

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This has happened to me too many times. I spend hours clearing stuff out of our drawers: Half-used sticker sheets, moldy bath toys, dried out markers. The usable stuff (outgrown clothes, old picture books and such) goes into carefully sorted bags destined for thrift stores and teacher prize boxes. Until my son sees them.

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“WHAT? You’re giving away my Star Wars shirt?”

“Those stickers are still good…”

“I’m still using that!”

I know there are parents out there who do everything above-board, who regularly encourage their kids to give old toys to the needy and enforce a “one toy in, one toy out” rule. Those are great practices that encourage a great sense of stewardship and responsibility. But I’ve totally failed in that department, which is probably how I ended up with drawers stuffed with faded construction paper and crusty rubber ducks.

So this is what I do: I throw away my kids’ junk when they’re not looking.

We recently moved out of our home of 12 years. There were a lot of kazoos, pirate eye patches, foam stick-on birthday party craft projects (create twice the junk in half the time!), you name it. Without telling anyone, I swept them all into bags and threw them into the trash. I’ve tried donating the higher-quality trinkets to teachers for their prize boxes, only to have one of my boys “win” them back. Even leaving donation bags next to the door or in the trunk of the car is dangerous. So this time, I put my giveaways into boxes and promptly drive to the nearest thrift store.

Am I enabling little hoarders by doing the hard work of sorting what to keep, donate and toss, instead of making my children learn to do it for themselves?

I know other parents who do worse things. One mom friend keeps an immaculate house; she never lets a Happy Meal toy or party favor stay under her roof for more than a day. She tosses them as soon as her children go to bed (or simply look away). Even I think that’s ruthless. But is it any better if you sugarcoat it? One mom tells her kids to leave their leftover Halloween candy out for the Great Pumpkin, who then whisks it away and replaces it with one good toy. Another friend confessed that she just doesn’t like children’s art projects and basically empties their backpacks into the recycle bin. After all, whose house is it anyway?

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Am I enabling little hoarders by doing the hard work of sorting what to keep, donate and toss, instead of making my children learn to do it for themselves? Some of the most avid “collectors” I know say they love to be surrounded by stuff because they had so little when they were growing up.

What do you think? Is it okay to throw out your kids’ things without them knowing? Or should children be involved in managing their own stuff?

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