When you can't let go of your 'baby stuff'

It can be difficult parting with your favourite baby things.
It can be difficult parting with your favourite baby things. Photo: Jessica Peterson

Having another baby is not something Eugenie Pepper thinks about. Her two children are now aged six and seven, and she admits she no longer needs to keep their 'baby stuff'.

But that doesn't mean she can bring herself to let it go, either.

Like so many of us, Eugenie holds on to her 'baby stuff' for sentimental reasons.

"My babies were so precious to me and I waited so long for them," she says.

She keeps a premmie pink bolero pinned to a board in her office, has framed four pairs of baby shoes and keeps the rest of her children's baby clothes tucked away in plastic storage boxes.

It's not just clothes Eugenie struggles to part with. She held on to her children's bassinet and cot mattress, and only recently gave away their pram.

Eugenie is not alone. Many mums struggle to get rid of their 'baby stuff' long after their babies have grown, says psychologist Madonna Hirning.

She explains it's human nature to form strong associations with objects. So, for example, a plain cot is no longer 'just a cot' once your baby has used it.

"It is the cot where your darling child pulled themselves up for the first time. Those random looking marks along one side are where your youngest alleviated the pain of teething." 

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She says we worry that if we get rid of these items, "It feels like giving a piece of our memories away that we will never get back".

It's easy to understand why many mums struggle to even contemplate clearing out their baby things. If you can relate, be kind to yourself. Hirning says it's only natural to feel sad about the thought of letting these things go.

However, getting rid of your baby's belongings doesn't mean you no longer treasure that time. "By letting go of them you are not letting go of your memories," Hirning reminds.

Of course, it's not compulsory to purge your house of baby things. If you have the room to house them and feel comfortable doing so, by all means, keep them. But, Hirning notes, most people simply don't have the space to store all those things.

If you're ready to start letting go, Hirning advises selecting a number of smaller items (like clothes) to hold on to.

Then, group the rest of your baby's things into categories from 'easiest to get rid of', to 'most difficult'. Let go of the 'easiest' stuff first.

Repeat the process after about a month. Continue doing it until you're left with only "a few precious items you plan to keep".

It also helps to choose a meaningful way to part with your baby's belongings. If you give them to a family member or close friend who needs them, you'll feel good that they will be treasured again.

Or, you could sell them and use that money to benefit your child, suggests Hirning. You could deposit the money in her bank account, or buy her some educational toys or even a family pass to the zoo.

Alternatively, you could take a leaf out of Eugenie's book and frame some baby clothes or shoes.

While you may feel relief at clearing out some much-needed space, Hirning warns you're also likely to feel regret.

"It is the nature of minds to go over things, especially things that really matter to you and tell you that you should have chosen a different outcome," she explains. "This will likely result in sadness or frustration with yourself as you worry you made the wrong decision."

If you're regretful, try not to dwell on those feelings. Instead, tell yourself that although those objects meant a lot to you, they were just 'things'.

"Remind yourself that whilst you will always hold these memories dear, it's more important to treasure your child now, because without your child these objects would be just that – meaningless objects."

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