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From Trash to Treasure: Turning My College-Bound Son’s Bedroom Emptiness into an Unforgettable Future Life-Lesson

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For 18 years my son has slept in the bedroom just down the hallway,  and tonight is his last night in there before we take him to college.

He’s asleep, but I’m sitting here in the hallway outside his bedroom like a crazy person rifling through a giant trash bag full of stuff that he’s labeled “toss” …but that I’m labeling “his childhood.”

Apparently he inherited my pack-rat tendencies, because we’ve spent most of the past week purging his room and sorting the relics of his life into four boxes: “Take to College” “Keep” “Donate” and “Toss.”

I'm anticipating not being able to walk into his room for awhile after he's gone. But no one told me that packing up his room would unleash such a flood of emotions that this mama is trying hard not to drown in.

Here’s what I’ve learned from the 

The “donate pile” was easy. (It’s absurd how many pairs of cleats he’s accumulated.)

The “take to college” pile was surprisingly sparse (unlike his sister, we won’t need a U-haul to move him into his dorm.) Besides his clothes and electronics, he just wants the practical basics—his favorite pillow and blanket, a family photo (yes, I threw that in), a desk lamp and his baseball and snowboarding equipment.

His “keep” pile was an interesting revelation of what matters most to him: His varsity letters and favorite jerseys and ball caps from club baseball teams, his signed football from Tony Dungy, a framed photo of our dog that died a few years ago, an old record player and records his brother-in-law gave him, ticket stubs from some concerts and big sporting events, and his Bible (that he says he reads regularly,  to which I mentioned should have then gone into his “take to college” pile.)

But this “toss” pile has sent me over the edge. 

This overflowing bag of what he’s casually deemed as his trash is his boyhood I’ve treasured. Dozens of old team photos and dusty trophies from a decade of pee-wee and junior sports seasons; his gems and geodes collection from the elementary school’s annual “rock fair,” a clay bowl he made at summer camp, intricate Lego creations…and his oversized Mesa Verde model he made for his 4th grade project. (Seriously—shouldn't there be a hot after-market for selling these ridiculous elementary school projects?)

This bag of trash is all that’s left of my little boy.

My little boy who’s now grown into a tall hairy man.

Who is leaving for college.


>>Related: when love isn't a cord to be cut

So I’m NOT going to spend another minute agonizing over throwing this bag away.

In fact, I’m NOT going to throw it away, PERIOD. Because it’s just too much gone-ness all at once.

Instead, I’m going to stick this stuff in a plastic bin and hide it in our basement storage,  with an envelope taped on it that says: “To be opened someday when you become a father.”

And in the envelope will be a note that says “Savor every moment with your children because it will be over faster than you can ever imagine. Take the time to pay attention to what makes them who they are. Cherish the little everyday things. Because it will end up being what you treasure most after they're gone. '”

But before I do any of this, I have something more important to do...

I’m going to tuck my son into bed and kiss his forehead goodnight on his last night at home.

FullSizeRender (54)Written by Kami Gilmour, wife and the mom of 5 teen and young adult kids. She's also the author of the best-selling book Release My Grip.

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  • Erin

    What a fantastic idea!!

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