Concerning Gifts

I was tidying up my room last weekend, and I decided to make a clean sweep and clear away a mound of clutter.

And by clutter I mean precious gifts from my beloved daughters.

I know, I know: I’m a terrible person. But I’m going to say it, so just go ahead and judge me. My kids make some wonderful, crafty, thoughtful gifts, and I am so happy to receive them. They also scavenge their rooms for their own beloved treasures which they wrap for me, Cute W, and each other. It’s so sweet. It’s genuinely moving. And then the gifts stay there in my room or around the house on display. For years. And collect dust.

Here, for example, is a sampling of some of the items that were on my bureau:

Readers who attended our nursery school will recognize the two big keepsake boxes. Gorgeous works of art with tissue paper and pom-pom balls and 3-D felt flowers that periodically fall off or crumble. Try dusting these puppies. Yikes.

Two of the many scavenged items that I’ve received include this blown-out Chinese lantern firecracker and a half-filled plastic snow globe from a garage sale.

There’s also a photo of us in a frame from Marshalls that the girls picked out all by themselves.

This is a mere fraction of the items that are on display throughout the house. Even the cards they make are huge showpieces. Including this little beauty, which you have to read to truly appreciate:

It makes me a little nuts, because of course I keep these things. And putting them away feels wrong, like I don’t love my kids. But the stuff takes over my space. That little patch of bureau up there? It’s not serene. So I relocated all of the items above except for the framed picture.  I couldn’t even manage to box them, but I put them on a low, less prominent shelf for now, with storage in the plans for the future. What do other people do with these? Like, nursery-school parents, did you wrap your box in plastic so that it would stay intact and clean, or have you been using it? And if you’ve been using it, will you use it forever and ever? Is it because you love your child more than I love mine?

Putting some empty space on my dresser made me feel like I could breathe easier. Ah, serenity:  I felt like the oxygen level in the room increased.

What makes me crazy is that you’ll see those magazine articles about clever things to do with your kids’ artwork, and they look so lovely, like the stuff’s been curated by a gallery owner. I swear, sometimes I feel like magazines are created expressly to make me feel like I suck. But that’s a little snapshot, and they usually don’t mention that there’s this other stuff that just got tossed in the trash. Right? I mean, someone who has this one corner of their house that looks that beautiful probably does not have any old exploded firecracker wrappings lying around at all, right? So why does it feel perfectly reasonable when the design-happy magazine people make the “tough choices,” but I feel like a mean ol’ Mommy if I put something away that my kids gave me four years ago that they’ve since forgotten about entirely?

Actually,  I have my own lovely little curated corner:

Right above my computer, this display is one of my favorite things in the house. But I feel a little guilty about it, too. The frames were super-cheap, from Ikea. I started with the four bottom paintings, but when the girls got wind of it, they wanted to choose more of their own art, and it drove me a little crazy. Because I wanted to pick my favorites.  I let them choose a few, but I’ve been gradually replacing the stuff they picked with new art, and now the only one to be replaced is that top yellow one: it’s in colored pencil instead of paint like the rest of them.  Of course I don’t say this to the artist. I just periodically suggest painting on standard copy paper so that hopefully an item will be produced that will fit in with my aesthetic vision. Then I can exclaim over it and ask if she’d mind terribly if I swap it in, not because I dislike the pencil, but because this one is so stunning!

I’ve received some lovely homemade jewelry, like this brooch and this necklace:

My mom tip? Church is the perfect place to wear the homemade jewelry. It’s formal enough that you’re not out-of-place wearing sequins, and you’re sure to get compliments from other mamas. But I don’t wear a lot of jewelry, ever, so months will go by between wearings.

I’d thought about writing this last weekend when I cleaned, and then I was reminded this morning when I saw that J’s started putting gifts under the tree, including a gift bag with–okay, I can’t tell, because it’s for Cute W, and it’s scavenged-but-thoughtful. You see the dilemma here? I love the care taken in choosing and/or making these gifts. I’m not going to suggest that we go out shopping. Well, luckily, I just tidied, so there’s plenty of fresh space on my dresser.

What about all of you? How long do you display your gifts? Do you feel guilty picking and choosing, or should I just get over it?


  1. EMT

    I have a theory that all those magazine photo parents are the ones who hover over their kids as they work, directing and sometimes doing large parts themselves. I use special storage bins for each kid. What makes it in there has been weeded three times after prominent display. But my dresser still looks like your picture. 🙂

  2. Claire

    Some things go in scrapbooks, some are on display, and some go in trunks. I photograph the things that I can’t keep indefinitely. It is definitely a struggle.

  3. Jennie

    I’m ruthless. I used to keep everything and then I moved from new york to Australia. The cost of shipping our household goods (beds, clothes, dresser, books, toys….. You know essentials) was astronomical. I had to do an extreme purge including my m&m dispenser collection and all dd artwork. (I’m still wishing I kept those dispensers!). Anyway, long story short, I learned that purging helps me feel sane. I also reuse stuff. Dd did some feet painting and didn’t want me to recycle them yet (she helps me clean out her artwork). So we used them to wrap presents instead. Instant wrapping paper.

  4. EMT: I have storage bins, too, that I have the girls weed through once in a while, so that helps.You’re probably right about the magazine parents. We’re way better than that. The creativity just flows. . . and flows. . . .
    Jennie: See, you have an excellent reason to be ruthless. I’m impressed that you manage to get dd to agree to recycling. At nursery school the girls used to make these nailed-together wood sculptures with glitter and bring them home day after day, and I kept saying, “This would make a lovely gift for. . . .” and every time my kids were like, “What? Give away this precious work of art?”
    Claire: Photos is a good idea. I do that with the chalk drawings and other “ephemera,” but maybe I need to expand.

  5. Michelle

    A went to a Montessori preschool, so we (fortunately!) didn’t get lots of large projects coming home from preschool. She was more of a eye-dropper food coloring on paper towel squares, decoupage paper circles, inset shape tracing work, general drawing, etc. kid. And lucky for me, she isn’t particularly attached to anything she makes. I usually choose a few favorites to commemorate an era, and the rest get tossed. And she’s awesome about it – really, we’re incredibly lucky. When straightening up the art table, I can literally hold up things she just made and ask her if she is ‘done’ with these, or if she’d like to hang onto them for a while, and 9 out of 10 times, she’ll tell me to throw them out.
    C, on the other hand, so far wants me to hold onto every.single.scribbled on. scrap. FOREVER. I have to sneak to get rid of her excess. (Once I got busted throwing out an old take out menu with red pencil scribbles on the back and C almost had a stroke. I had to take it out of the trash, smooth it out and put it on the fridge for a couple days to make up for my Grievous Error!) She starts preschool at SIS next year, though, so I have a feeling that I might end up with far more stuff this time around.
    I have visions of boxes upon boxes of the girls stuff piling up and taking over my house, and what would I do with it? I’m not terribly good with clutter. Plus, up until this summer, we moved an average of every 2-3 years (and had very little storage in the places we lived!), so that helped justify my purges.
    So, long and short, no, you don’t suck. In fact, by comparison, I kind of suck because I keep so little. But I think I’m kind of okay with that. 😉

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