What Getting Rid Of Childhood Stuff Taught Me About Growing Up
The other day, when I was clearing out my bedroom, I had to literally give my stuffed animals a hug before I could put them in the 'donate' pile. I graduated from college in 2020, and after two and a half years of grief, healing broken relationships, and rearranging my plans time and time again, I am finally moving out of my parents' house next month.
I enjoy organizing but I definitely overestimated my ability to enjoy clearing out every single possession that I own. I had an overactive imagination as a kid and, mixed with my love for toys and Disney movies like Toy Story, I have become a very sentimental person. Clearing my childhood stuff out my bedroom is also a tough task for me because I've never actually wanted to be a grown up.
While it might be a stereotype that kids always want to be older than they are, I used to cry the night before my birthday every year because I loved the magic of childhood, and the passage of time genuinely grieved me — can you tell I've always been existential?
Now that I am actually an adult, getting rid of those items from so long ago is giving me that same feeling that I used to get before my birthday.
All of the stuffed animals and toys from when I was a little girl might not have been used in years, but it's still incredibly hard to part with them. They inspired my imagination, helped grow my empathy, and have always just been there, watching me read, write stories, cry over boys. They've been pretty consistent companions.
All of the memories wrapped up in these belongings — certain trips, birthdays, reunions — makes them feel like keys to my past, like getting rid of them might erase those experiences. But I have to remember that my relationships are stronger than that, and getting rid of a gift from a loved one when it no longer serves me doesn't diminish the time we spent together.
I suppose that getting rid of childhood stuff that I've held on to for so long is scary for a few extra reasons. With the realization that I don't need a stuffed dog from elementary school is the realization that I've left whatever safety and guardrails come with being a child. I now have adult problems with consequences that weren't there before.
Clearing out my bedroom is also forcing myself to sit in the fact that I am actually moving. That my friends' lives will continue without me, that I'm completely starting over. Because as exciting as it is to finally have a chance to follow my dreams, I am scared out of my mind.
It might seem silly to have such strong emotions about something like this, but it's important to sort them out! Regardless of whether you're moving out of your parents house, getting married, or going through another big life change, here are some questions to help you figure out what you're feeling and why. If you're not big on journaling, you can also scrapbook about an experience, or write a poem about your emotions.
- Why do I care so much about this item?
- What recent experiences, photos, or memories do I have with the person who gave me this item?
- Is there someone who could love it better than me?
One thing to remember, however, is that you don't have to get rid of absolutely everything. I have a babydoll that my parents gave me the week I was born (it's still in remarkably good shape) that I will never give away. It's okay to keep certain items that are really and truly irreplaceable.
I'm almost done sorting through everything, and it's a bit like the end of the five stages of grief; I know it will help me accept that I'm entering a new phase of life. It's forcing me to deal with the very idea of change, like giving away my stuffed animals is practice for when I have to say goodbye to my friends and my family.
It's also important to remember that there will be new friends and new memories. It's hard to keep that in mind when all I can think about is the goodbye, but in another year I'll be surrounded by people whom I love just as much as the people in my life now. And that's the great thing about love; it's doesn't diminish when you give it away.
The other night, I was holding a friend's newborn, and I was able to give him that tiny stuffed dog from elementary school. I feel a bit like Andy at the end of Toy Story 3, when he gives Buzz, Woody, and the rest of the gang to Bonnie. Like I have a hand in giving a little bit of magic to the next generation of dreamers, artists, and world changers. Life is a bit full circle in that way.
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B+C Editorial Assistant, Swiftie | Chloe is from the Outer Banks (yes, like the Netflix show!). When she isn't writing or updating her blog Pastels and Pop Culture, Chloe enjoys watching Marvel movies or texting her sister about the latest celebrity news. Say hi at @thechloewilliams on Insta and @popculturechlo on Twitter!