Over the past few years, my nearly 9 year old son has earned a new nickname: Magpie. Since he was small, Zack would pick up anything shiny he found on the ground. I would find all sorts of trinkets in the dryer after I did laundry each week.
Recently, I took him to the skating rink and my toe stop fell off of my skate while I was working on some roller derby foot work. I couldn’t find the lock washer that helped hold it in place once it flew off, so I thought I’d need to pick up another one at Home Depot. Lo and behold, I found it in the dryer a few days later. My Magpie had saved the day, although he had no idea that he had picked up something that I was looking for.
While Zack’s shiny object obsession occasionally benefits me, it really causes more problems with clutter than it actually helps. And as he got older, he began including scraps of paper in his collections, too. Anything on which he had colored or written – Post-It Notes, children’s menus from restaurants, bits of construction paper left over from other projects – was piled up on his dresser or shoved in his drawers. Whenever I suggested that he didn’t have to keep every single piece of paper that crossed his path, he got really upset. I don’t believe that Zack is an actual hoarder per the medical definition – I don’t want you to think that I do or that I’m belittling the disorder. I do, however, think his collecting habit is just turned up higher than most other kids his age and he has a deeper sentimental attachment to things than he should.
About a year ago, I just couldn’t live with his room like this any longer, so we made a compromise. I bought him a plastic storage tote and told him that he could keep whatever special things he wanted to keep in it, as long as he could close the lid. We went through every drawer, his closet, and under the bed, and he chose what things were important enough for him to put in the box. Everything else, he chose to throw away on his own.
He’s a cute little Magpie, though.
Zack’s Special Things Tote has really seemed to help. He’s much more discriminating about about he keeps, because he knows that he will need to go through and get rid of things once the box is full. I no longer feel like I am trying to force him to get rid of things because there is just too much stuff everywhere. He really was fearful that he’d come home from school one day and all of his collections would be gone (I wouldn’t have done that, but he thought I might). Neither of us has to worry now.
As you can see, he has several different collections in his box. I have my own box that I keep some of his special baby clothes, birthday cards, and artwork in. But, this box is where he puts his own things, like rocks, “lucky” bottle caps, artwork, and notes and drawings from his friends.
I try to make sure that my kids have lots of storage space, like faux built-in cabinets or a custom built dresser. But, I also want them to learn that they don’t have to keep every single thing that crosses their paths!
Do you have a little one who loves to collect things? How do you help them keep it organized? Do you have any other kid organizing ideas to share?