A few years ago, I let go of our Mr. Potato Head collection. I asked my boys to play one last time, my middle boy specifically as I have great memories of playing this with him while his baby brother slept and his big brother took a bath. He declined. All three of them did. I may have cried.
But the Mr. and Mrs. were needed elsewhere. Toddlers and preschoolers at our church would be enjoying those spuds in no time, and we didn’t need them in our house, taking up space and collecting dust. As much as I wanted to hold onto them, it was time to just hold on to the memories.
The past few days I’ve been working on a major cleanout of our basement in order to get it ready for some changes in our home. Our home is small and our kids are constantly growing. Two teens and a tween now and we have a space problem, a shortage if you will. Things are piling up despite my attempts several times a year to purge.
I admit, I’m a bit sentimental. When I see the baby and toddler stuff, the blankets, the onesies, the binkies, Thomas the Train, our Little People collection, and the LEGO DUPLOs, my brain is overcome by emotion. I have been setting my timer for 30 minutes each day to do a small chunk of sorting and purging. It is a mess. When doing a project like this, a mess always comes first. In that 30 minutes, a good chunk of it has been spent standing over boxes and trying to decide if stuff should stay or go.
The other day, I froze in place over the bin that holds the Play-Doh. There it lay, untouched for years now. We used to play with it every day. The ice cream shop and the BBQ. They used to take my order and pass me a plate of their best creation that I would then pretend to eat like it was the best thing in the world. All the while, I would be rolling that dough in the palm of my hands, relaxing and enjoying the moment. I stood frozen over that box until I knew it was time, and then I picked it up and moved it to the get-rid-of section of the basement. And then I cried.
I know the only way to make room is to let go. But it feels like making room in my home is leaving a hole in my heart. A hole made up of regrets for not enjoying those sleep deprived, diaper filled, potty training, books before bedtime, sing you to sleep, hugs and kisses make it all better days as much as I could have, as much as I should have. I stopped there because letting go of the Play-Doh was enough for one day.
I spent the rest of the day processing and working through those emotions. I was torn, thinking about why I am holding on to these toys. Am I holding on in hopes to pass down to my future grandkids? Am I holding on in case we have little ones over? Or am I holding on simply because I don’t want to let go?
The next day I set my timer for 30 minutes again. My tears had already been cried over Play-Doh, and after much thought and prayer, I knew what my next move would be. Because making room in my home isn’t really leaving a hole in my heart if my heart is filled with those beautiful memories. So, I packed up the Little People and the DUPLOs and moved them to the get-rid-of side of the basement as well. I kept what I could fit in a box—a bag of puzzles and the Three Little Pigs House.
I also took an empty box and filled it with books. When considering what to keep and what to get rid of, the toys lost and the books won. Books hold a special place in my heart. I am a reader and a writer. I didn’t keep all of our baby and toddler books. I’ve gotten rid of some throughout the years, but like the toys, I kept the ones that were special. The ones we read over and over. The ones I have memorized. The ones that have been well-loved.
The only way to make room is to let go, keeps playing like a banner across my mind. I have to remind myself that these are only things that I am letting go of. What really matters is the people, and the people—my people, my ever-growing people—are still here. Meanwhile, other people and their little children could benefit from my letting go.
This reminds me of Toy Story when Andy boxed up his toys and passed them along. I cried during that too. And I cried when the toys Andy meant to keep ended up with Bonnie, and after seeing the joy his special toys brought her, he let them go. Those toys sitting in boxes, taking up space, don’t benefit anyone here in my small home anymore. This week I’ve had to change my mindset from tears of holding onto the past to letting go, moving on, and peace. It’s not easy to let go. But perhaps now that my tears are cried and dried up, someone else can experience the joy those toys brought us, which will one day be their precious memories too.