My Child Likes To Collect Things. (Which would be fine if clutter didn’t make me anxious.)

Kids collecting things

My 7-year-old daughter resembles a mini version of a full-grown hoarder. She likes to collect things, and preserving the memories of everything memorable (so basically EVERYTHING) has become her passion that she gradually brought to perfection.

Sticks. Rocks. Feathers. Empty snail shells. Strands of horse tail hair. Dead bugs or at least parts of their lifeless bodies. Popped balloons. Broken arrows. Wilted flowers. Parts of missing toys. Broken parts of missing toys. Broken parts of broken missing toys. Loose buttons. Piles of notes scribbled in cute loopy handwriting. Boxes. Old receipts. Expired coupons. Empty lotion jars.

EVERYTHING is ever so special to her.

I get it. Collecting things is a natural part of child development, right?

But it sure makes me wonder…

Maybe the adult hoarders started just like this?!

I’ve tried explaining.

And it certainly works. Sometimes. But it’s just much easier to make things disappear. Quite frankly, I’m tired of negotiating the departure of every single little trinket that collects dust and sits abandoned for an eternity until it ends up in the trash and suddenly becomes unavailable.

I agree that it’s probably not a good idea to throw stuff away behind your child’s back. Not that it works, anyway.

I’ve successfully smuggled the unworthy possessions across the border of her room in the darkness of the night a few times, only to wake up the next day to a pair of accusing eyes and “Why are my SPECIAL [broken] crayons and my SPECIAL [dried out] markers I keep in daddy’s SPECIAL blue [old shoe] box in the trash? And why were the SPECIAL pretty pictures that I drew for YOU in the recycling bin?!” Laying on the mommy guilt… “Um, I don’t know, honey. Let me see…”

And sure enough, there it was. A neatly organized pile of I-will-never-part-with SPECIAL items that have resurfaced from the bottom of the trash to see the daylight again, sitting on my CLEAN coffee table, already sorted out and ready to be returned into their designated SPECIAL places.

So I brought it to perfection.

Apparently, it doesn’t matter how well you conceal the purged items in the trash can, or how clever you think you are when you’re sliding a stash of unidentifiable art projects to the bottom of the recycling bin. It turns out that kids are clever little things, and they don’t like getting outsmarted.

I realized that if I wanted to make anything truly disappear, the only option was to remove the evidence from our house – not hide it. Random bags sitting in the garage or suspicious boxes in the car’s trunk turned out to be poor choices though and had a tendency to end with an immediate rescue party and a lot of unnecessary questions. The only way to successfully complete my mission to a clutter-free home was to go the extra mile (OK about 25 feet) and straight to the outside garbage can.  

But the fault in the plan was her wicked memory.

“Um, Mommy, do you know what happened to the [dead] lady bug I had in my special place in the middle white drawer under my bed next to the sticks that I can’t find either? I think my special [broken] bracelet is missing. And where is my fuzzy rock???”

In my defense, the FUZZY ROCK was a piece of rock smuggled into the house without my knowledge that seemed to have an egg sack on it holding who knows what, looking pretty ripe and ready to burst at any given moment. I found it laying on the floor by the front door, and I swore I could see movement. But I’ll have you know I’m not a mass murderer, and it didn’t end up in a landfill. Those were clearly someone’s precious babies, and I love nature and all that. It was gently placed outside the back door. Or thrown from the back door as far away as possible, hopefully all the way over the fence to a neighbor’s yard. I don’t remember. For the rest, I have no excuse. Actually, the dusty, colorless, crumbling lady bug corpse got caught up in my dust cloth sleeve and was inevitably destroyed.

Sometimes it’s as easy as redirecting my daughter to the backyard or steering the conversation to ice cream. Other times, I get busted. 

When I get busted, I do what any other loving mother would do.

I lie.

I blame the sudden disappearance on her younger sister. Or their father. Or her messy ways. And on the magical creatures that roam through our house on occasion.

“It’s OK, honey, we’ll look for it later.” And while I give her a hug and whisper “I love you” in her ear, I know she’ll forget about it soon enough. After all, she’ll only keep her attention on the suddenly missing prized possessions until the next object catches her eye. I think we’re good.

But the truth is, my child isn’t a mini hoarder.

And it sometimes slips my mind.

Children have this amazing ability to see ordinary objects as extraordinary wonders. They’re present in a world of their own that’s full of bright colors, familiar and brand new smells, different textures, unique perceptions, and intuitive connections. It’s a world that they’re comfortable in and one that they seem to have control over.

Though I still don’t see how special used Band-Aids can really be, no matter how cute the print. Or multiple baggies full of pencil shavings, my favorite.

Motherhood is chock full of conflicting thoughts and feelings. And as much as I like the idea of a clutter-free home, half the time I’m actually amazed at the stuff I find. To be honest, I’m not even really good at this. Weighed down by guilt, I’ve been known to fish sparkly projects out of trash. And I know that one day I’ll look back at these moments, and I have a feeling that they, too, will be special…

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