I love getting rid of things. I’m overwhelmed by clutter, stuff gives me anxiety, and when I watch Tidying Up on Netflix, I just can’t relate to people who claim that so many of their belongings give them true joy. My husband often finds me tossing unwanted items because I can’t be bothered with the chore of re-selling—I’d much rather just get them out of my house. In general, I have very little attachment to material objects.
So why can’t I part with my daughters’ tiny newborn clothes?
When I recently cleared out too-tiny onesies and pants from my second daughter’s drawers, I found myself clutching an armful of clothes as I stared down the trash bag and storage bin. For the first time, while decluttering, I paused.
Our second daughter is most likely our last. When she was born, I felt a sense of completeness I had heard other moms describe but didn’t personally experience with our firstborn. Every day, I kiss my baby ‘s tiny nose and marvel at how perfect our family feels now. A family of four—a family with two children.
So why can’t I let go of those itty-bitty newborn pants with the ruffles on the butt?
To be fair, I tossed the stained onesies. I ditched the out of style items. I donated the things we never even ended up using.
But the sweet kimono-style top she wore on her first day home? The tiny bow she wore in her newborn photos? The soft pink onesie both she and her sister wore as they practiced tummy time in the living room?
The thought of parting with them nearly gutted me.
Maybe it’s because when I hold these things, I’m immediately transported back to not just one, but two of my fourth trimesters, watching two wiggly babies kick their legs. I hold them to my nose and can almost smell that hypnotic newborn fragrance—I swear I can even feel that velvety new skin and tuft of silky hair.
Maybe it’s because, despite all those feelings of completeness, of satisfaction with our family of four, a part of me hesitates to call it quits. I’ve changed my mind before—who’s to say I won’t rethink a third baby? (If I’m totally honest, I feel like I could be talked into it.) But I’m also totally fine if it never happens. I don’t think I want another baby. But I know I don’t want to say goodbye to that minuscule knit cap my daughter wore coming home from the hospital.
Maybe I hold onto these clothes because I know I can’t stop my children from growing up.
I know that it will hurt a little bit every time I look back at their squishy, fresh-from-the-womb faces in photos. I know that part of me will always long for just one more day to cuddle those soft bodies, to tickle those sweet little toes. I can never have those days again. But I can hold on to those handknit booties that she outgrew after her first month.
Those little outfits will never grow up. I can run my fingers over the soft cotton to be transported back to the precious memories so firmly behind us.
I surprise myself sometimes, how attached I am to these little pieces of cloth. After all, that’s all they are, right? But because they’ve clothed my babies, they’ve become so much more in my mind.
Before I had children, baby clothes were simply something to coo at in Target or gift to friends to dress up their little ones. But now, each outfit is the carrier of a memory—of my own transition from a woman to a mother.
Now, that sweater has become the sweater I wrapped my baby ‘s tiny body in for the first time we dared to venture out of the house—just the two of us. Those moccasins have become the shoes my baby bravely took her first shaky steps in. This dress has become the dress she excitedly wore to meet her brand-new baby sister.
So I’ve given my wannabe-minimalist self a pass. I’ve neatly folded the tiny pants and onesies (Marie Kondo would be proud!) and tucked them back in the storage box.
Because, while I’ll probably never use them again, these items give me more joy than you can imagine. ✨