What to Keep (and Toss) for Your Kid’s Future

Does anyone else feel like they are drowning in stuff? I am constantly swimming through a sea of toys and clothing that my children have outgrown but I just can’t bring myself to let go. room filled with toys

Currently, my own personal home edit is at a standstill because I am stuck somewhere between wanting to Marie Kondo purge every single thing from my home and the paralyzing fear that I might get rid of something that 20 years from now, when my babies are grown, I wish I had kept.

The problem is that I have no idea what I am going to want in 5, 10, 20, 30 years from now. I’m not her yet. What am I going to cherish? What will be junk? What will I want to pass on to my sons and their children?

I, myself, do not have the answers so instead of continuing to let the current pull me under, I looked to other moms for sage advice. I polled moms of grown children to see what they suggest other moms keep, (and toss) when it comes to their children’s possessions.

What Parents Should Keep for Sentimental Value

I asked my group of expert moms: “What did you keep from your kid(s) childhood that you cherish?”

Personalized Writing and Art

kid's personalized artwork taped to a door
We will probably keep the heart with the personalized note and toss the rest.
  • Creative stories
  • Notes and letters to/from family members
  • Diaries and journals
  • A couple special pieces of art
  • One or two pieces of schoolwork per year

Items that Show Growth

  • First coming-home outfit and blanket
  • A few measurement items like handprints, footprints, and growth charts
  • A handful of nice or memorable childhood and baby outfits

Other Sentimental Items

  • One or two extra special childhood stuffed animals
  • Videos (many of the moms polled wished they had been able to film more)
  • Pictures, both professional and casual

Items Parents Should Keep to Pass on to Their Grown Children and Grandchildren

I asked my group of expert moms: “Is there anything from your kid(s) that you saved and passed on to your grandchildren? Anything that has been a family heirloom?”

Iconic Toys that stand the test of time

little boy with toy plane
Here my son is wearing an outfit my husband wore as a child and he’s playing with my husband’s toy plane from the 90’s!
  • Legos
  • Barbies
  • American Girl Dolls
  • Matchbox Cars
  • Wooden Blocks/ Lincoln logs
  • Little People Sets
  • Magnatiles
  • Dress-up clothes
  • A few books in good shape

Family Heirlooms

  • Anything from previous generations
  • Rocking horses
  • Rocking chairs
  • Baby doll cradles
  • Jewelry
  • Special clothing pieces

    little boy being held by mom
    My mother-in-law saved a some of my husband’s cute outfits that were able to pass on to our sons.

Official School Items

  • High School and College Diplomas
  • Letter jackets and class rings
  • Yearbooks

Items Parents should Donate, Sell, or Toss

I asked my group of expert moms: “What did you keep that just ended up being unused/clutter?”


  • Most toys
  • Most clothing
  • Extra baby blankets
  • Baby and kid gear


  • Birthday and special occasion cards (unless they have a personalized heartfelt message)
  • Homework: workbooks, projects, busywork
  • Trophies and ribbons (unless your kid is likely headed professional)
  • Almost all art pieces

So now that I know what to keep (and toss), what is the best way to store this stuff for 20 years?

Storage Tips and Tricks

box with file folders labeled with kid's ages
This is our current filing system

Artkive is AMAZING. High quality books of my kids’ artwork. They also have an app to save along the way and so you can recycle along the way!” – Wendy, mom of a 33, 31, and 29 year old

“Each year I filled a Rubbermaid tubby with every single thing he did. Right before the beginning of the next school year, we would purge anything we knew we wouldn’t want to keep. Now I’ve taken all the pics and papers and put them in plastic sleeves in binders organized by age/grade/activity.” -Renee, mom of a 26 year old

“Some of the pictures are on display and I let grandkids go through and pick which ones they want to swap out on display” – Julie, mom of a 37, 40, 50, and a 53 year old, as well as a middle son who passed away when he was 19.

“I have a portable file folder holder for each kid. In it I have folders labeled by year/grade. Each kid has a decent sized Rubbermaid container with the special keepsakes (blankets, stuffed animals, etc) I also let them pick some of their favorite things to put in there. Also two scrapbooks for each kid from preschool to graduation.” -Lisa, mom of a 23 and 25 year old

“The K-12 tubs live in the closets of their childhood rooms now that they have moved out. I have pictures of each girl in their childhood rooms, along with their birth plaques.” -Lori, mom of a 26 and 28 year old

I think the most comforting takeaway from my conversations with these veteran moms is that when my children grow up, that doesn’t mean my time of being a mom is over. It is just a role change. All of these moms were still active participants in their grown children’s lives. They may not rock their babies to sleep or run carpool any longer but they do flourish in the new season of mentorship, friendship, and grandparenthood that time has ushered in.

The love doesn’t stop when the binders are closed and the tubs are filled. And when that feeling of sentimentality strikes them, it is there waiting for them in things they kept.

Kelsey Pomeroy
Kelsey was born and raised in Branson, Mo. It was there, in the town that boasts the “World’s Largest Banjo” that she met her husband, Samuel. It was his first day at a new high school and she was the only person to say “Hi” to him that day, so he married her! A decade later and now they take up residence in KC-adjacent-Suburbia, but tell out-of-state people they are from “Kansas City” because it is way easier. Kelsey taught high school English for 6 years, but now she stays home to hang out with her adorable toddler, Theodore. Her passions include traveling (34 countries and counting!), playing board games, writing murder mystery parties, reading, and talking to as many people as possible.


  1. I disagree with Kelsey to toss all your kids’ artwork and school papers because it’s precious stuff. It’s best to weed through it and keep / preserve the meaningful pieces. I’ve used Artimusart.com since 2009 to turn all those things into a treasured Keepsake and my kids LOVED seeing their school / artwork in a book each year. Artimus Art creates the highest quality reproduction of the art so that it’s print worthy. Taking photos of your kids’ art is easy but not always a quality printed product that will look nice on a printed page.
    Kid art is as meaningful as photos. -Marie, Mom of a 28, 26 and 21 year old.

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