A reader called Mary-Clare wrote to ask me for help to sort out her baby paraphenalia:
“I have a 19 month old son. He is my first child. I am 34. Each six or eight weeks I need to go through the clothes he has outgrown, and make room for the new size clothes and shoes. My friends and I have been really good at recycling all the baby gear and have literally passed bags from one to another.
But I still have a lot of clothes – good stuff in really good condition – including lots of baby paraphernalia, travel cots, Moses baskets, breastfeeding stuff, maternity clothes, etc, that aren’t needed now. It isn’t a huge amount, but it’s there. Most people keep this stuff for Baby Number Two… but I just can’t get my head around whether I will ever want another one, as I still find it all such a challenge with one!
To this most of my friends have said I will definitely change my mind and want another soon… So my question is, do I hold onto this stuff indefinitely? Or get rid of it and then risk having to buy it all over again? And then if I do go on to have another child, what if it’s a girl and I have saved the clothes for no reason!”
The four categories of clutter
My approach to questions such as this is to look at how much stagnant energy can accumulate by holding on to things that may or may not be used at some future time. It’s the stagnant energy rather than the things themselves that cause the problem.
In my book, Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui, I define the four categories of clutter as:
- Things you do not use or love
- Things that are untidy or disorganized
- Too many things in too small a space
- Anything unfinished
And here’s how to apply them to this situation:
- Keep the items that may be useful
- Store them tidily and well organized
- Only keep the things you have enough space for
- Set a date in the future to let them go if you haven’t had another baby by then
The decision to be made
Marie-Clare seems to have the first two categories well under control. The third category will depend on how large her home is and how much storage space she has in it. So the only tricky issue here is the last category – how long to wait?
It takes a while for stagnant energy to gather, so a year or two should be fine if her home has a good feng shui circulation of energy. Any longer than that and the situation will need to be reassessed in the light of whether her family’s lives are flowing well or starting to feel stuck.
This example is all about baby paraphernalia but it can be equally well applied to every other clutter clearing dilemma, and to the different levels of clutter clearing – mental, emotional and spiritual, as well as physical. There’s a lot more to these four categories than most people realize.
Copyright © Clear Space Living Ltd, 2011
Dear Karen, dear Mary-Clare and all the other mothers,
Please do not store things for too long, especially when you are not sure whether there will be ever a second (or third etc.) child.
My darling-sister kept so many things from her children for me when I would have a baby. Those things were at her time expensive and useful and even more important very well taken care of. However, I only now became a mum and there are 8 years between her youngest one and my baby-son. She gave me lots of clothing, bottles, sterilizer machines and many more things, all things she had kept in her cellar or attic. I was really touched by her gesture.
But, 8 years is a long time and for example the sterilizer which was in a perfect condition when my niece was little now is broken because of not having been used for such a long time. That is just an example. In the end I bought quite a lot of necessities myself as I had to bring so much to the scrapheap. I made a calculation and was quite shocked when I noticed that I had to throw away an approximate amount of EUR 750,- (based on value for new purchases).
I guess that my sister could have best given the baby things to another mum as soon as they were no longer needed in her family instead of keeping them for me. My husband and I definitely will only keep some precious items from our son and have already given lots of clothing, toys and baby things to charity shops. Even if you have another child just remember that things brought to charity shops or recycling centers can also be bought there again or via internet.
Many regards from the Netherlands,
Thanks for your comment, Ute. I completely agree.
I’m not suggesting at all that it’s a good idea to store baby things for someone else who may or may not ever have another child. This advice to Mary-Clare is all about storing things for herself.