2012 03/02

When your child is a hoarder

Mom! But I just want to add it to my collection!

This is the pleading I hear from my 6 year old on an almost daily basis. Her collection. A collection of things the girl refuses to part with. And her collection is starting to concern me.

Abbi has always been sentimental. She has an amazing memory and recall events that happened when she was quite little. Things that I probably would have forgotten about, if it weren’t for her bringing them back up.  She remembers. She wants to remember. And she thinks keeping tangible items will help her to remember EVERYTHING!

At first I wasn’t too worried about her wanting to hang on to pictures that she colored or drew. She was proud of them. It didn’t really hurt to let her stash them away in one of the art drawers with her coloring books. And, honestly, after a few weeks, when she wasn’t looking, I would clean out that drawer and purge it of a few dozen pictures. She never asked about them and just continued to add her latest artwork. It was a good system.

But somewhere along time something changed. Her need to hold on to pictures transitioned into objects.

It all came about one day when I found a handful of broken toys or toys that were missing pieces stashed away in her bedroom. I asked her what they were doing in her room and she said she wanted to keep them. She didn’t want me to throw them away. I explained to her that they were broken and that she had a freaking ton (possibly didn’t use the word freaking) of toys yet to play with. She didn’t care. She wanted these because they meant something to her. Mind you, these are cheap plastic toys from McDonalds or dollar-store Barbies who have permanently lost a limb. So, we compromised. I let her keep two and we would throw the rest away. She agreed. And then cried, viciously.

Then there was the Dog Groomer Incident…

Jasper (our boxer) broke the clip on his collar while at the groomer one day. The owner of the place felt horrible and offered us a new collar. Awesome! He tossed the old, broken collar in the garbage. Abbi promptly marched over to the trash can and grabbed the old collar. I want to keep it!  And then the tears started to flow when Tim asked her to put it back in the trash. Now the broken collar sits downstairs in Abbi’s bedroom.

The incident with the cars…

Abbi was beside herself when we had to get rid of our old mini-van (I totaled it the Summer of 2010). But she had no choice to let it go because, I don’t care how many tears fall, we were not keeping that thing. Then, earlier this month, we sold Tim’s Honda Civic. Insert crying, sobbing Abbi as this gentleman tried to get into the car to drive it away. Sobbing. HE CAN’T HAVE MY CAR! When he returned the license plate from the car the next day, Abbi quickly snatched it up and took it to her collection downstairs.

The boots…

Abbi’s winter boots have begun to crack and are now missing quarter size pieces of the rubber, leaving the liner exposed. Obviously this is a problem because the holes are not going to keep out the snow and rain from soaking her little feet. No big deal because we have another pair that she can wear. Yay! Oh, wait, yes this is a big deal because someone doesn’t want to get rid of those boots. She needs to add them to her collection. WHAT? Mom, please don’t throw them out!!!!

I could go on and on with examples.

This week when I was getting stuff (baby clothes, toys, etc) ready to take to our church consignment sale, I had to sneak them out to the car so Abbi wouldn’t see them. Otherwise, it would have been a battle and I would have had to explain and justify why I was getting rid of each thing.

She just can’t bear to part with anything and doesn’t think any of us should either.

I think I have a hoarder in the making on my hands.

Yes, I know some kids just become emotionally attached to things. But when do you cross the line between acceptable attachment and hoarding?

Seriously! The more time that goes by, the more worried I actually get about this.

What do you guys think? Did your child go through something like this?

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  • We’ve struggled with this too. My son got more and more attached to things as he got older. I was sharing my frustration with a friend, and she explained how it is a sign of anxiety in kiddos. We took him to play therapy and he’s doing so so so much better now.

  • My 6 year old son as similar tendencies…he cried hysterically when we sold our car in June. “Don’t take my car away, I hate that man” Its a good thing we were in the house because that could would have been attacked. He also keeps random items and old on to the strange parts of toys. My daughter is always packing bags FULL of her “stuff” and dragging it around the house. The amount of items that are in her bed that she sleeps with is crazy. Maybe all kids have hoarding tendencies and they grow out of it (here’s hoping)!

  • I tend to be this way myself. I have always had a hard time letting go of anything, no matter how silly, because of the memory attached to it. I think it’s because it keeps the memory alive to me. Even if I dig through that old box in the basement every 10 years, I am still glad I kept that stuff, because it is stuff I WOULD have forgotten about otherwise. I think if I had a better way to journal, or keep these memories in a more appropriate way it would help me let go. I just never have the time to journal or take photos and organize them all some how. My brother was this way too. His pockets would be so loaded with rocks and “treasures” as a kid his pants would actually fall down. But now he lives the life of a wanderer and has very few possessions because he is always moving. Granted, he still has a lot of stuff back at my parents house, but he has let a lot go. I think it has to do with how emotional a person is. I am very emotional. Maybe if you took pictures of things and put them into a journal or scrap book for her that she could keep it would be a way for her to remember whatever it is, no matter how silly to you, while not actually hanging onto everything. There are journal systems that allow you to slip in a picture and have a place to write something about it next to the picture. Something like this might be easy enough for you to do, and as she gets older it would be a good way for her to practice writing and journaling as well.

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