Why do some parents find it so hard to let go of old baby clothes?
Why do some parents find it so hard to let go of old baby clothes? Image Credit: Shutterstock

I remember the day clearly. My youngest baby had just turned 9 months old and, with three children, the clutter was growing and growing. I have no intention of having any more kids and had decided that day was the day to finally tackle the de-cluttering - and in haste, had taken pictures of a number of baby clothes and toys to try and sell to new homes.

But very quickly after pressing ‘publish’ on the social media sales post, my heart started to beat faster with rising panic. “I can’t do it,” I thought to myself. “I just can’t do it!”

And then, as quickly as the doubts had crept into my mind, a voice of reason replied: “Don’t be silly! You don’t need these things! They are just wasting space!”

So when a message pinged shortly afterwards from a pregnant lady who lived around the corner asking to buy a pile of swaddling blankets, I typed back “Still available! All yours!” without giving it another moment’s thought.

Sudden regrets

When she typed back to tell me she was already on her way to collect them, I walked over to my stash of baby things to find them - but as I reached down to pick them up - my fingers brushing the soft cotton printed with tiny elephants - a vision of my newborn baby wrapped inside flashed in my mind. And suddenly I felt sick. There was no way I could sell these.

The memories were so precious, ingrained in the very fibres of the blankets. Giving them away would be like giving away my memories. It suddenly made total sense to keep them, stashing them away in a box so I could pull them out in years to come and be taken straight back to those days with a newborn when I was old and grey! Those memories were surely worth more than 50 dirhams, which would no doubt disappear when I popped to the supermarket later and made an impulse purchase to buy a family-sized chocolate bar to ease my grief at saying goodbye.

Reneging on the deal

But what did I do now? A heavily pregnant lady was currently waddling her way towards my front door to collect the blankets, probably already imagining her newborn wrapped in them and praising herself for snapping up a bargain. “Should I turn off the lights and hide?” I thought to myself, as I clutched the soft fabric protectively to my chest. But I didn’t have time. The doorbell rang and before I had time to react, my nanny was walking towards the door. I thought about sliding across the floor and taking her out Ninja-style, but it was too late. She was unlatching the door, saying hello, and looking towards me with a baffled look on her face as I stood out of sight in the lounge, frozen to the spot.

In the moments that followed, I had to make a split decision - and I started throwing the swaddling blankets into two piles. The ones I couldn’t part with on the left and the ones that held no sentimental value to the right. And scooping the right pile up and strolling towards the door, I decided to come clean. “I’m so sorry,” I said, feeling genuine embarrassment and remorse, “But I just can’t bear to part with a few of the more sentimental ones! I don’t want to waste your time, so I thought you could have these four blankets for free?” The pregnant lady on my doorstep smiled. “I understand,” she said, with kind eyes. “This bump is my second and I couldn’t give away any of my son’s things yet. Are you sure about not paying?” “Absolutely,” I replied, thrusting the blankets into her arms. “I hope they bring you some lovely memories too.”

Where do you draw the line?

I may have been a bad business woman, but I felt like I’d dodged a bullet that day - and years later, I still have those newborn bits. They sit in a box in the bottom of the spare wardrobe, hidden under spare duvets and bed linen. And while I probably won’t open them for years, knowing they are there is comforting.

This is all well and good - but the problem now is that I have no idea where to stop. When my husband recently suggested we threw away the baby’s first ever pair of shoes as they had holes in the toe, I balked. No way! They’d go in the memory box too. Along with the dress she wore on her first Christmas Day and the swimsuit she wore on her first summer holiday. Not forgetting the floral head-bands she wore when she was little, a pair of slippers she wore once before kicking them off in rage, and a dressing gown that was embroidered with her name. If it carries on like this, the truth is that we’ll need a new box. And then probably another one after that. I’ll probably still be stashing things away when she graduates, gets married, and has kids of her own.

And when that day comes, I’ll probably be thankful I’ve still got those swaddling blankets.

If I can bear to pass them on, that is.

Louise Emma Clarke is a British mum of three and the author of two novels, “From Mum with Love’ and ‘Mum’s Big Break’, both available on Amazon.