How to Get Over Decluttering Regret

It’s been seven years since we completed our massive decluttering effort, and six years since our grandchildren began arriving. What this means is that from time to time, I find myself wishing I still had something I got rid of, usually something that a grandchild would have liked or that one of my adult children who is now a parent wishes I had saved.

This is tough. That regret is painful. I can picture the item so clearly in my mind, but it’s long gone.

The most recent example is educational toys. I once had a fine collection, curated over many years of raising a large family. But I let go of most of it when we moved to the small house we live in now. There just wasn’t any room for it.

According to her pediatrician, one of our grandchildren may be gifted. This child has a very active mind and body and needs to be kept busy; her response to boredom is to get into trouble. Her parents have discovered that keeping her occupied with challenging puzzles and other activities is the key to saving their collective sanity.

I understand completely, and wistfully imagine how nice it would be to give them all those great educational toys we once had. But they’re gone.

I’ve begun to see, however, that it’s a complete waste of time to regret this, and particularly to dwell on it. It’s not as though there are no other educational toys left in the world. Rather than mourn the loss of what we had, I’ve been taking that energy and putting it into finding new educational toys for my tiny tornado, as I fondly call my very active granddaughter.

I’ve been checking out thrift stores and garage sales, and what I’ve discovered is that many kids are given educational toys, but few use them. So I’m finding very nice puzzles, games and other toys in like-new condition for mere pennies. Sometimes the packages are still sealed!

I buy these things and keep them at home until I see my grandchild. Until that happens, they take up space in my little house, so I’m glad to get them out of here. And, of course, my grandchild and her folks are thrilled with them.

There are no strings to these gifts, no emotional attachment involved. They can keep them or get rid of them once she’s bored with them. It doesn’t matter to me. I’m just happy to help out.

This is a new attitude for me. If I’d kept all of my kids’ educational toys, I’d be saying things like, “Give it back to me when she’s tired of it in case another grandchild needs it,” or “Don’t let her rip that, it was yours when you were little.” I would want that collection to be preserved.

But it’s gone. These “new” items are serving a purpose for a time and then they will be gone, too. That’s OK. There’s a lot of freedom in doing things this way, and the end result is that my house stays uncluttered. So much for decluttering regret!

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