Creative Parenting 101: Take A Picture. It’ll Last Longer!

I often say that photographs are my favorite souvenirs. In addition to the wonderful memory* that you can preserve with just one picture, a picture–or thirty–takes up much less space than, say, that jumbo Disney World snowglobe that costs you the same amount as a brand-new Geo Metro and will be in next year’s garage sale.

My pictures-take-up-less-space philosophy came in handy when the older boy was younger. We discovered early-on that he had packrat-like tendencies. He came by it honestly; his mother’s** side of the family has the packrat gene in a big way. With intensive therapy***, I finally learned how to get rid of stuff. Halleluyah!

When our boy was between the ages of 4 and 6, the packrat thing was super-annoying. He balked at the idea of throwing away/donating/finding a new home for ANYTHING. He would beg and plead: “Can’t we keep it???? But if we get rid of it, I’ll miss it!”

And sadly, I’m not talking about toys, folks. Sure, he had the same attachments to toys, but I’m talking about household things. For example, our microwave broke once, and we had to get a new one. He didn’t want to get rid of the old one.

Or the time we had to replace a tv. He didn’t want to get rid of the old one.

Or the time we were getting rid of our charcoal grill in favor of a gas grill. He didn’t want to get rid of the old one.

“Pleeeeeeese?” he’d beg.

“But we don’t have room for it anymore!” we’d say.

“I’ll keep it in my room! Promise!”

Finally, I hit upon a genius idea.

“Why don’t you take a picture of it? Then you can look at it whenever you want to.”

Oh, but he LOVED that idea. He was, thanks to Aunt Julesie, just getting into photography and had his own (real, working) Fisher-Price camera. Once he snapped a photo or two (or three, or four), the whining and begging ceased and he was able to say goodbye to our household items.

And now we have pictures of

our old, broken microwave,

our old, broken tv,

our old charcoal grill,

and so many other things that were part of our household for a time.

And space. We have lots of that, too.

*They’re not all wonderful memories, of course. I often recommend to other parents that they take photos–without overtly being insensitive jerks–of their children while a tantrum or other fiasco is unfolding in front of their very eyes. One of my favorite photos is one I took of the younger boy at age 3-ish, wearing jeans and a flannel shirt, and sobbing his fool head off, lower lip sticking out, looking very much like Archie Bunker.


***and by therapy, I mean many weekends (as a newlywed) making Jim and myself miserable with my ugly, over-the-top tears over wanting to keep ridiculous things when we were trying to make more space in our little home. It worked.



  • Mr. Man

    Photography is a wonderful hobby. Your idea make a lot of sense in order to reduce the household clutter. I'd rather a picture over a snow globe anytime.

  • DaddysFishBowl

    LOL at the type of things he didn't want to get rid of. Kids have a funny way of looking at things from time to time, but it's quite entertaining.

  • Craig

    That's awesome. I'm catching the de-clutter bug and ofter come across stuff that is "special", taking a picture may be the ticket…

  • Meeko Fabulous

    Hello. My name's Meeko and I'm a pack rat. What's worked for me? My dear roommate told me he would buy me a new computer if I finally trashed my old one that has just been taking up space and gathering dust in the garage. He stole that idea from Niecey (sp?) Nash from Clean House.

  • Mrs4444

    What a sweet story. My nephew saves candy wrappers–it drives his mother crazy. I'll have to tell her about this idea. Thanks!

    P.S. Yes, the telephone table is my favorite. I only wish it was comfortable enough to sit in! Tell you what–I'll put it in my will (when I write one). haha

  • Karen MEG

    I do that with the kids' artwork, but what a great idea for other stuff…. not that I would get rid of anything (it's ME who's the resident packrat in the family!)

  • Michelle

    Ooo, I'm going to have to remember that one. Mister Man saves EVERYthing. I have pinecones on my desk in the office that I can't toss because he collected them for me. You're such a brilliant mom 🙂

  • Maureen @ Wisconsin Mommy

    You are giving me hope – Little J wants to save everything and throws a major fit when anything leaves the house. (And I've tried the picture angle – FAIL) Did your little guy grow out of it???