Moms, You Don’t HAVE to Keep That. 50 items to trash or give away guilt-free.

by | Aug 29, 2014 | Parenting, Parenting Advice | 27 comments

Before school started up this week, I did a major tidy up of the playroom and the desks in the kids’ rooms. We do our twice yearly clean outs during advent and lent, in which we select things we don’t love or use all that often to donate. That’s not what this was. This was me, alone and unsupervised, well past bedtime, getting rid of useless stuff that was cluttering up our counter tops and our lives. 

With seven children living here, five of whom are of independent-craft-doing age, a lot of what didn’t survive the purge was crafts. We do a lot of melty beads. We do a lot of rainbow loom. And, although I appreciate that those and other crafty pastimes keep my children occupied and quiet and enjoying themselves, completed melty bead and rainbow loom projects had created a gentle layer of detritus, covering the surfaces of my home like silt in the hollows of a sunken ship.

And I, ladies and gentlemen . . . I THREW THEM AWAY. Just like that. I threw away the melty bead shapes, and the rainbow loom bracelets, and the completed coloring pages, and the magazine clipping collages, and the popsicle sticks with yarn glued to them. 

The rooms look so much tidier. And, five days later . . . the kids haven’t noticed.

It inspired me to look around at my own stuff. What would *I* not even notice if it was gone? I’ve been on a bit of a tear ever since.

Throwing things away or bagging them up to donate is liberating, but scary. So, in case you need it, I, a certified person on the internet, hereby give you permission to rid yourself of the following fifty items. You’re welcome.

  1. most of the melty bead creations 
  2. most of the rainbow loom bracelets
  3. all of the fast food toys
  4. things you have just because they were expensive
  5. things you have just because they are religious (don’t throw away blessed items. bury them, burn them, or drop them off at a church)
  6. toys just because they are wooden
  7. toys just because they are educational
  8. gifts
  9. mostly completed activity books
  10. ripped out pages of coloring books
  11. most kids’ art projects that are more than a month or two old
  12. most birthday cards that are more than a month or two old
  13. toys you like but your kids don’t
  14. toys your kids like but you don’t
  15. single socks
  16. your favorite pants from before you had babies
  17. movies you should like but don’t
  18. books you should read but won’t
  19. catalogs full of things you can’t afford
  20. tapes and CDs if you don’t have a player
  21. scratched DVDs
  22. plastic storage container bottoms without tops
  23. plastic storage container tops without bottoms
  24. participation trophies
  25. old sports uniforms
  26. kitchen appliances that only other types of moms use
  27. anything “fancy” that never gets used
  28. probably 90% of anything in a storage unit
  29. incomplete decks of cards
  30. board games with missing pieces
  31. those piles of stuff you’re saving for a thing you saw on Pinterest
  32. old calendars
  33. restaurant menus 
  34. all those empty jars
  35. the spare buttons that came with shirts you no longer own
  36. broken items that you plan to (but probably never will) fix
  37. art supplies that are too messy to use
  38. colored pencils that are less than two inches long
  39. pencils with no erasers
  40. broken crayons
  41. cute and/or expensive baby clothing that isn’t functional
  42. items that may be useful for the next child but will sit years in storage in between
  43. probably half of your digital photos
  44. vacuumed up Legos
  45. canned goods that have been in your pantry for over a year
  46. picture books you don’t enjoy reading
  47. shoes you love but don’t wear
  48. clothes in your closet that still have the tags on them
  49. equipment for sports in which you do not participate
  50. outdated and replaced technology

p.s. First week of school in the books. Seven kids, five grades. There was barfing. (But we’re better now.) There were clogged toilets. (Unrelated to, but on the same day as the barfing. Terrific.) There were potty training successes. (One of which was the cause of ANOTHER, separate, clogged toilet incident.) But we did it. And we looked GOOD doing it.

Update: In response to a couple of comments below . . . yes, we homeshool in uniforms! I have found that it cuts down on morning drama over what to wear and saves us time. It also cuts down on my laundry. The kids each have two shirts or dresses and wear them each two days, then play clothes for parkday on Friday. I also happen to think it’s pretty cute. It’s what works for us.

I wrote more about it here:


Also, I asked the kids for suggestions for a name for our school this year, and then they voted on it. By a majority vote we are now the Queen of Heaven Finishing School for Young Ladies (only). The boys were particularly enthusiastic about it.

The original suggestion by the girls was Queen of Heaven Finishing School for Young Ladies and Gentlemen. The boys amended it, then it passed by a vote of 6-5 (the five votes being mine). Both boys and girls were quite happy with the name until it was discovered that the boys would, in fact, still have to do schoolwork. They were shocked. SHOCKED.

Happy weekend everyone!


  1. Sophie שרה Golden

    Lol who keeps restaurant menus? 😀 or I am the most minimalist of all minimalists.

    Love the uniforms, nice design. Anita looks like a princess in anything anyway.

    • Kendra

      I had a drawer half-full of takeout menus, but we almost never get takeout anyway and when we do I usually just look it up online!

  2. Rachel~At the Butterfly Ball

    They do look good on the first week of school! Ok I have a question… You homeschool right? So, your kids wear uniforms for school, or are those just uniforms from some other occasion/organization? I've honestly considered uniforms for life around here… too many kids clothes and somehow they can never find matching outfits! Uniforms might really make life easier, I doubt it, but they might.

    • Athena Carson

      I had the same question! I like the idea of uniforms even for home-schooling. I would think it would help the kids make that shift mentally between "home" and "school" even though they are still in the same place physically.

    • Kendra

      I updated the post above with some info and and a link to a post with the whole story. For us, uniforms really do make life easier. Speaking of getting rid of things, having uniforms has allowed us to really cut down on the number of items of kids' clothing we need to own. They have their uniforms and 4-5 other outfits, plus special occasion clothes. I guess that's still a lot, but it's MUCH less than we used to keep.

  3. Kelly LaFleur

    Mother of Divine Grace represent! I felt that as an alum I had to comment 🙂 My siblings are still going through the curriculum and I'm so impressed at how MODG has embraced technology for classes and updated lesson plans and such! Do you do any of the online or phone classes yet?

    • Kendra

      Yes! I totally agree. Classical curriculum with customizeable online daily lesson plans. Amazing.

      This is our first year doing any of the online classes. I'm excited to see how it goes.

    • Tall Girl on a Short Budget

      Yay MODG!! 🙂 I'm an alum and a teacher, too. I think it would be totally awesome to have one of your kids in class! Is that creepy? I think it might be.

  4. Amanda

    We're going to move and I'm struggling with getting rid of kids' stuff…particularly what they like and I don't, or was a gift, or we haven't had very long. I think the reason I'm not struggling with getting rid of my own stuff is that I'm pretending I don't need to.

  5. Chris

    Now if I could just get my husband to be on this de-clutter page, certain rooms in our house would not look like Sanford and Son. I kid you not.We're getting there…but it's tough being Felix Unger married to a hoarder. I can't even throw out my OWN stuff w/ o the 3rd degree! I have to put bags out at the curb after dark. sheesh. After almost 18 years, things ARE getting better.In his own crazy way, he can be super organized about stuff, but I could like out of a box and he's the opposite.I do try to see the big picture and if this is all that drives me up the wall about our life and our marriage, I keep it in perspective bc I know I have traits that are less than stellar too….
    THANK YOU!! Love the tips, friend.
    Pics are great. Great first day shot!!

  6. Amanda

    Love this! I'm a ruthless declutterer! The way I assuage my guilt over throwing out art projects and such is by taking a picture and then tossing it. That way I have a record, but it's a tiny digital file vs a massive poster board 🙂

    Love the uniforms, the color suits your kids perfectly! My oldest is now in a Catholic school and her uniform is so so cute! It makes me want plaid skirts for my younger daughter too. And I bet your uniforms help with reducing the clutter too, just like the 50 items to trash or give away.

  7. Angie Tancraitor

    Love it! And we opted for uniforms this year too and I had to laugh because my oldest chose the evergreen polos as well. I guess great minds think alike 😉 -Angie

  8. Jenelle

    Love! Know if I could get my 5 year old to read this and believe it! 🙂

  9. Kati

    For people who struggle with the getting-rid-of-art-projects issue, I found this great app called ArtKive. You photograph the kids' work, you can categorize it by child and year, and then when you want to (if you ever want to) you can print a book that has the photos of all the art in it! I don't struggle with purging but this does help assuage even my minimal guilt over throwing out the kindergarten self-portraits.

    • Athena Carson

      Great idea! Wish I had heard of / thought of this years ago. My kids are super creative and I absolutely love all their art, but we just haven't had the space to keep it all.

  10. Jen Ward

    Marrying a man in the military and having moved 5 times in the past 10 years makes me go through things a bit better! For some reason Jessica got a ridiculous amount of hand me downs this year- so we need to purge… but we do try to reduce the numbers of toys, etc. Although it is hard to part with books. I think I have a drawer of take out menus- but many of the places in this little place don't have their menus online yet. And we don't do take out often… so I could get rid of them. OK, done! 🙂

  11. Elizabeth

    Haha! Thanks for this post. I am a purger, and this makes me feel less guilty about my purging tendencies :).

  12. Anastasia

    As a former homeschoolee, my mom saved a lot of artwork and birthday cards of ours that was actually a bit of a burden for us children to later go through and throw away as adults! So I feel good about not doing that to my own children, AND about helping them not to be a slave to stuff, as I have been for most of my life. It's nice to have a few examples. But that's all! Thanks for the fabulous list Kendra!! I agree! DO IT! Throw those things away!

  13. Abby S.

    Love. it. In your honor, this am we went through our dress up (goodbye things we love but don't wear!) and the coloring/activity/maze book basket (each kid kept 5 or fewer and we tossed about 26 pounds of partially used stuff). Can't wait for more de-cluttering projects around here!

  14. Nanacamille

    Uniforms look great especially in the tree. Hope you got the order straightened out. I am a clean it out person except for a few sentimental things. However I do keep all the china, crystal and silver from my mom and gtandmom that really doesn't fit today's life style. I just love it's beauty and old world charm.

  15. Theresa

    I need to print this out so whenever I hear, "But I LOOOVVEEE that!", I can just point to the list! haha

  16. Elizabeth

    I am saving this post to refer back to next time I have a free day to clean up around here. (I've been hoping for that since baby George was born 9 months ago, so I really just need to schedule some grandparent time some Saturday.) I feel overwhelmed when the house is cluttered and love being organized, but even so, getting rid of stuff is a huge challenge for me. I have to be in just the right mood (and lately when that mood strikes, I'm too occupied with George to follow through). I come from a long line of sentimental packrats who hate to "waste" anything, so it's encouraging to have outside "permission." Number 43 is one I've been working on lately — and I take lots of high-resolution, nearly identical photos of my little one. (Oh, the guilt. "How can I delete even a single moment documenting my darling boy's babyhood?" … I hope I'll be less precious about each and every snapshot once more children come along.)

  17. Parenting Patch

    I follow the rule that, if I have not used something within a year, I toss it. I feel so much better getting the clutter out. And I donate as much as possible to thrift shops.

  18. Beth Anne @ Beth Anne's Best

    YES!! I don't have kids but every few months I go on cleaning/decluttering sprees and I'm thinking, "Why did I keep this?"

    For years I kept birthday/thank you cards/christmas cards. Now I trash them. The only cards I do keep are postcards that I get via postcrossings in a box because they come from cool places like China….but once the box gets full I'm sure I'll get rid of some as I refuse to have more than one box.

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