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Recently, a few of my friends have mentioned the need for a “holiday clear out.” You know, going through toys, games, and clothing and getting rid of stuff to make room for all the new stuff the family will get during the holiday season. We don’t have that problem because I am constantly clearing and cleaning, dividing and donating. It’s not easy. You have to routinely think about whether or not you (or your family members) need something. Want, unfortunately, must take a back seat in this equation.

I used to feel really guilty about that, but now that I’ve discovered that kids really don’t want that much, it’s not so bad. For example, I recently got rid of what seemed like a ton of stuffed animals, board games, and puzzles. (Okay, it was only three large bags, but still…) The kids did not even notice they were gone.

Of course, I’m pretty careful when I’m doing my weekly thrift store donation analysis. Before I toss anything I run it through a checklist:

  1. Do either of the kids have any emotional attachment to this item?
  2. When was the last time they wore it/played with it?
  3. Do I know someone who would get use out of it?

The answers help me figure out whether to keep something or toss it. When it comes to emotional attachments, well, my decisions are much easier for Big Girl’s stuff than with Little Girl’s stuff. My little one latches on to stuff in a way that her sister never did. Case in point: Her bed. Right now there are about a dozen assorted animals that sleep with her every night. She knows EXACTLY who should be in there and complains bitterly if they are missing. This, I think, is the most important part of the check list. If there’s no emotional attachment, the decision is really a no-brainer.

Still, I am not an ogre. Just because someone doesn’t swoon over an item doesn’t mean it’s not worth something, so that’s where the time element comes in. My rule of thumb is simple: If it’s been more than a month or two since they played with something I can probably safely squirrel it out of the house. I figure if they haven’t looked for it, they probably aren’t going to.

I use the same lenses when I am pillaging my own closets. Sometimes, I cut too deeply and regret it (WHY did I get rid of those great thigh-high white boots?!?), but for the most part my excavation works really well. How about you? Do you sort and toss often? Once a year? How does that work for you?

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