Helping Kids Declutter
Kids who’ve survived trauma have a hard time letting go
My children are hoarders. They don’t want me to get rid of outgrown clothes, broken toys, books, etc. I fear we will be overcome by their belongings someday if they never let anything go. I have tried asking them if they would like to donate any unused or too-small items and sometimes that helps them let go. I have tried giving them the challenge to get rid of five items and they will bring me five tiny pieces of trash they manage to find under the couch or their bed. Ha! That is not what I was asking for and they know it. If I suggest a pair of shoes is too small or too worn out to keep I will be met with arguments of how they still fit or they are their favorites.
When their father moved to a new city he threw most of their toys and clothes away without asking them. They would come home from being in their new house with dad and his girlfriend and complain that their toys were missing. Almost every week for the first month after the move they told me how they missed playing with their toys or stuffed animals. They were able to bring some of their favorites to my house before their dad threw them away but they lost most of the things they had while we were married.
All of the toys, clothes, and furniture I brought to my new apartment were new or hand-me-downs they had never had before. It was exciting to have new things but they missed some of their old favorites. When I unpacked the box of toys they left at the shelter when their dad took full temporary custody they greeted them like old friends.
I know I can’t just throw out their old broken toys because of what they have already gone through. Recently we worked on decluttering their room together and they were able to let go of some of their toys and old shoes. They enjoyed seeing the results of our hard work and rediscovering toys that had gone missing under the bed.
I do not think it is okay to just throw out their things without their permission but I have snuck a pair of shoes deep into the trash bag where they cannot see them occasionally. Yikes! What’s a mother to do? I try to set a good example by donating things I no longer need and keeping our home organized. I know in time they will get better at letting things go.
I think we need to be careful with our children who have gone through trauma. We never know what will be painful for them. I think as we honor their feelings and experiences by being gentle and letting them lead we help them heal. A room with too many things is something I can tolerate if it helps them feel more secure and like they have some control over their lives.
Thanks for reading,
Julia Freeman, an anonymous survivor
I write from my experience of being raised by a narcissist and being married to an abusive narc for over twenty years. I hope my experience helps others live free.