I feel like I constantly have to be getting rid of things. Whether I’m tossing cheap plastic toys into the trash or putting construction paper art projects aside for the recycling bin, it’s an ongoing effort to rid our home of this clutter. I fear that if my wife and I didn’t keep at it, our house would eventually be overrun with crayon self-portraits and Happy Meal toys and worthless arcade prizes.

It’s astonishing how often and how quickly these items find their way into our home. The kids attend a birthday party, and they each come home with a goody bag stuffed with bouncy balls and penguin-shaped erasers and orange and black plastic spider rings. Various prizes – from pencils to stickers to those squishy stress balls – come home from school for good behavior.

The drawings and art projects from daycare and school are, of course, adorable. Some must be kept for posterity. But to hold onto every single one would necessitate investing in a storage unit that would be stuffed with file boxes full of macaroni-and-glue creations and brightly colored pirate ship scenes and rainbow after rainbow.

The problem is that all of this must be disposed of discreetly because every drawing, every little superhero figurine, and every plastic shark or fish or insect might be my son’s or my daughter’s favorite. They witness me throwing any of this stuff into the garbage or the recycling bin, and I’m caught in a crime, red-handed. Don’t throw that away, they’ll yell. I love it!

And so I must be sneaky about it. I snatch the offending item up when nobody’s looking. Instead of tossing it immediately, I’ll put it into my sock drawer for a little while because sometimes I face an urgent request the very next morning. Daddy where’s my drawing of the unicorn? Where’s the red ball I was playing with 15 days ago? Where’s the paper crown I made in school last month?

I’ve learned that it’s easier to return the requested item from my sock drawer, and then steal it away again in a week or two. Because sooner or later, the kids will forget about these and turn their attention to new favorite belongings.

So in my sock drawer I have a collection of confiscated items, waiting their turn to be disposed of. There’s the little foam soccer balls that the kids kept throwing in the living room despite my instructions not to. There’s the princess lip balm that my daughter smeared on several of her books instead of her lips. And a few art projects from early spring that can safely be trashed once I’m sure they’ve been forgotten about. In the evening after the kids are asleep, I quietly transfer these things from my drawer to the garbage.

I feel a bit guilty taking these momentarily treasured items out of circulation. But sure enough, eventually, they are forgotten about. Besides, there are so many toys, dolls, trucks, superheroes, ponies, puzzles, coloring books, art supplies, and of course Legos in our house that I have no doubt my kids have plenty to play with. They’ll get on just fine without this plastic singing elephant. Or these broken novelty glasses. Or this stack of drawings of the dog.

BILL ZUCK likes pirate ship scenes. You can reach him at wcz78@yahoo.com.

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