Are all children inveterate collectors?

As a father, it’s hard to know how unique your kids are versus all the other similarly-aged children in the world. It’s kind of the problem that Garrison Keillor pokes fun at when he talks about the fictional world of Lake Woebegon, where everyone is “above average”, but applied to individual behaviors. Be that as it may, I’m convinced that my kids collect more stuff, more often, than any other kids in our neighborhood.

The issue arises because every so often we get out the shovels, the hazmat gear, and try to clean up our house. Just to find pine cone collections, pebble collections, broken doll shoe collections, marbles, superballs, and dozens of other boxes and tupperware containers full of must-keep items that would be easily tossed without the entreaties of the little folk.

Maybe our kids aren’t unique in this trait, but it’s sure hard to figure out how to find a balance between saying “you can’t keep anything” and “we want a ship-shape house” and “let’s live in a house that resembles nothing so much as the sorting warehouse for Goodwill Industries!”

How do you deal with it? In fact, with three little folk, we seem to be fighting a never-ending tide of stuff. Big stuff, little stuff, cool stuff and stuff that’s indistinguishable from the detritus of a poorly-emptied trashcan. We’ve tried organizing bins, but then they all end up with approximately the same contents because our kids, at least, are more interested in keeping stuff than in organizing them into neat ordered categories. Plus we’d need thousands of bins to allow a completely separated organization!

Of course, I collected stuff as a kid too, and as our kids get older I’m sure that this zeal to collect anything that’s not moving (so far, at least) will turn into a nice hobby. Mine was stamp collecting, which I enjoyed for many years with my Dad… Meanwhile, though, we’d sure love to hear suggestions from parents about how to deal with the tsunami of stuff that engulfs our home on a daily basis!

One comment on “Are all children inveterate collectors?

  1. Dave:
    I was a single father and I share your pain. What I used to do was once a year I got the kids and their “stuff” together to select some items to donate to a charity at holiday time. Not too hard to figure that this accomplished a couple of things. It purged the accumulating belongings and sent the message of helping others, (sometimes with a little arm twisting).
    The good news is that the real collector, my son, evolved into a collector of things that have become valuable. In his adult life he became a stock analyst and now he “collects” stocks. It’s worked out pretty well for him!

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