I'm a sentimental saver, and if I relied solely on my emotions for deciding what baby things are special enough to keep, I'd be a Class 1 Hoarder. With limited space and our last baby quickly growing out of things, I've had to make some rules about what stays and what goes.

If the first step to overcoming something is admission, then — Hello, my name is Kelle, and I'm a Sentimental Saver. There. I said it. Three kids and thousands of memories equate to a real life game of Jenga in our garage — teetering bins and giant storage bags stacked on top of each other, each full of my kids' tiny things saved from when they were smaller. Naturally, the saving started after my firstborn and with good reason. "For our next baby," I'd say as I folded up clothes that no longer fit. But then we had another baby, and then another — and now we're putting things into the bins to be saved "for later" far more quickly than we're taking things out. Translation: HELP!

I've promised my husband for months now that we'd dedicate a day to go through things together, but I've been avoiding it because I know how it will go. He'll open a bin, and nostalgia will swallow me whole. "The strawberry jammies!" I'll shout as I pull them out. "Definitely saving these," I'll say. And then I'll find the skirt she wore on her first birthday and her first pair of Salt Water sandals and the little pink cardigan with the shiny buttons and the dress from that one time we went to the park and the hat from that one Christmas and — alright, you get it. I won't want to part with any of it.

'Too much stuff' creates psychological baggage and emotional clutter — virtual kryptonite to an already multitasking, organized-challenged mom.

I've been doing a little self-therapy for my sentimental saving addiction though, preparing for our garage clean-up, and I think I'm ready. The driving factor is that I feel the effects of too much stuff. "Too much stuff" creates psychological baggage and emotional clutter — virtual kryptonite to an already multitasking, organized-challenged mom. I've always been one, though, who needs to hang on to a little bit of stuff. How I wish my mom would have saved some of her favorites from when we were little so I could have them today for my kids. So, what's my strategy for the big clean-up? How do I decide what to save and what to pass on?

First of all, we're pretty sure we're done with kids, so I don't have the "for our next baby" excuse to justify my saving. Even if I did, I've realized that new babies get new things regardless, and many of the things I saved for another baby were never even reused. Secondly, I'm enlisting the help of a buffer. Knowing my tendency to find emotional attachment to things, I recognize the need for an emotion-removed supervisor to call the shots. In this case, my best friend is coming over for clean-up (in exchange for my supervising skills when it comes time for her clean-up mission). She has the perfect balance of sentiment/bossiness/humor that will permit me to save the most special treasures yet ridicule me when I've gone too far. I can hear her now: "Are you for real? Like you're seriously keeping those smelly shoes?"

Things I'll save:

Handmade gifts

My mom has crocheted and/or sewed beautiful pieces for each of my kids for birthdays or Christmas for the past six years. They have "Made by Grandma" tags sewn into them and make it easy for a unanimous "yes" for the save pile.

Clothing for quilt scraps

I started a bag of quilt scraps last year after my friend started a quilting business, specializing in memory quilts made from your children's old clothing. I saw the first treasure she made — a gorgeous full-size quilt stitched together with vintage calico, gingham and tiny floral prints all saved from a 13-year-old's baby dresses. I knew it was something I'd want someday, so I now save woven cotton fabrics with interesting prints, corduroy, denim and seer sucker (nothing stretchy or knit, so say goodbye to those).

A few timeless keepsakes

A rule of thumb: If I don't remember my child wearing it, saving it isn't even an option.

This can be hard to judge, but when it comes to saving a few favorite pieces that my grandkids might actually wear someday, I have to look beyond trends and only save quality classics that will withstand years tucked in an attic box. I try to narrow down this category by attaching a number to it — "If I had to save only 20 favorite items for 10 years of clothing, would this be one of them?" Think about the items you loved most — the ones you picked for your child to wear over and over. For me, it's a flutter-sleeve romper that my daughter must have worn once a week for two years. Red leather t-strap Mary Janes. OshKosh striped overalls. A cashmere cardigan. My favorite corduroy jumper with wood buttons. My son's first jeans with attached suspenders. A rule of thumb: If I don't remember my child wearing it, saving it isn't even an option.


I try to limit the number of toys we save and pare it down to favorite dolls/plush and some handmade/wooden toys that don't take up a lot of storage space. I have one large bin designated for all the saved toys of my kids' childhoods. "Think inside the bin" is my rule — if it doesn't fit, something has to go. Also, if you want to unemotionally part with toys, I would suggest not watching Toy Story 3. Ever.


Nothing. That's right, nothing. Once we're done with strollers, car seats and Pack n' Plays, I'm not hanging on to them. Sure, these things are nice to have for visiting company, but I know I can always reach out to friends to borrow something. Order is more important to me.

As for the rest? It won't be easy, but I have to think that clearing out space only makes room for more memories — sweeter ones to come. We pass things on to friends who have younger children (a great way to still "see" the past), we give to consignment shops for store credit (a valuable trade!), and we donate things to local charities. Letting go of too much stuff has multiple benefits.

Garage Clean-up 2013? We can do this.

More from Kelle Hampton

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The stories of our past
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