Dear Miriam | Keepsakes or Trash?

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Dear Miriam,

Our first Chanukah with our son in Jewish preschool just ended, and we are left with a mountain of crafts: “sculpted” dreidels, paper plate menorahs and enough drawings to cover every surface in our house. My wife thinks we’ll want to use these decorations for future holiday celebrations, and I think we should throw them out while the toddler is at school today. What do you think?

Signed,


Not Hanging Onto Chanukah

Dear Hanging,

I actually disagree with both of you, so perhaps you can put your argument aside and turn against me instead. There’s a world of options between your two extremes, and I encourage you to explore the underlying issues here. I urge that not because Chanukah crafts are ultimately important either way, but because you have years in front of you of things coming home from school that you don’t want, and the sooner you come up with an overarching system, the less you’ll have to talk about it.

Your first option is to keep a representative sample of what your son is bringing home. If it’s an especially pretty picture or one that shows an interesting developmental stage for your son, hang onto that one. Put it near your menorah so you’re sure to see it next year. Next year, you may have one new craft to add to the keep pile, and in that way, you can chart your son’s changes over years of Hanukkah celebrations while only having to look at these things once a year. The same rules apply for Rosh Hashanah crafts or, for that matter, math tests a little later on in his school career.

Your next option is to take pictures of everything and either let those photos languish in cyberspace or make some kind of album sometime in the future (definitely not today!). This way, you can browse the pictures if you ever want to remember this phase, but you don’t have to find storage for them. Someday, you might all appreciate having these and it’s a closed system for decision making in the moment.

One of my favorite options is to send these things away. Put a few in envelopes and mail them to grandparents, aunts, cousins or friends. File them away near where you store your wrapping paper and use them to decorate upcoming holiday and birthday presents. Reusing these drawings will be meaningful for the recipient, environmentally conscious and may help alleviate some of the tension you and your wife are feeling now. Even if another person ends up throwing them away, you’ve given them a second use and don’t have to feel the burden of the decision yourself.

The above suggestions are most relevant for flat, paper crafts. Save that lopsided dreidel for a few weeks, and if your son doesn’t ask about it, throw it away without any guilt. Resist the urge to ask your son which items he wants to keep, and anything that you do toss should be done in a way that he’s not going to find them in the trash.

If anything ever comes home that’s more than an average amount of sentimental or that’s actually useful (like a challah cover or, maybe next year, a functional menorah), consider whether it can become part of your family’s celebration for years to come as an actually meaningful memento. You’ll be able to think about what might fall into that category much more easily and appreciate the items that you do end up saving if you’ve dealt with the rest of the crafty mess efficiently and without strife.

Be well,

Miriam

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