Create a Time Capsule with Your Kids!

Create a Time Capsule with Your Kids!

Though I don’t have any kids of my own (yet), I know kids come with a lot of stuff! Heck, I remember as a kid having a ton of knick-knacks and stuffed animals. Basically, I had a lot of junk!

One way my parents helped to keep things under control was to allow me one box where I could keep all the important things or memorabilia:

  • my first watch with Mickey Mouse on it
  • my first pair of purple sunglasses with a white checkered pattern
  • my first blue wallet that I earned from selling chocolate bars
  • my first place ribbon from the school hula hoop challenge

These items were all near and dear to my little kid heart – and a few still remain in my possession (more on that in a minute).

To my parents, the key was to limit the kid junk and since kid junk can be very small, they gave me a printer paper box, which is smaller than the average banker’s box today. If I’m not mistaken it probably held 4-5 reams of printer paper and so it was compact. But the beauty of it was that was my container – where I could house whatever I wanted to keep.

To me, the key was that it was my time capsule box! That if someone came and looked through it they’d see my most prized possessions or things that were important to me – they might also see some meaningless junk (like my Happy Meal toys or some freebie from a birthday party gift bag.), but to me it was my whole life!

It Works!
It worked – I obeyed the rules because it was a boundary – just like brushing my teeth, helping out with the household chores, not talking back to my parents (don’t get me wrong I did this all the time and often was grounded for it), keeping my room clean, making my bed, and getting to bed by a certain time.

Boundaries are Important
Kids may argue with you on the boundaries you set but that’s because they are always going to push the limits to see how serious you are. You are the parent and you get to decide the rules and help guide them with boundaries.

Case in point – my parents said that my room was mine and I could keep my stuff in it, but it was still in their house and so I had to be respectful and keep my room clean and tidy. It didn’t have to be pristine all the time, but for the most part it couldn’t be a big mess (in my family mess = disrespect). The fact that we moved every 2-5 years also meant that we reviewed our belongings and purged more than your average family, so we were pretty used to it.

How to Implement the Time Capsule
When I assist my clients, I suggest that they give their child one organizing tub/box/bin (and I stress it needs to be a reasonable size) and the child can keep whatever they want in there. However, once the box is full, and the child wants to add something to it, they must open the box and review and let go of some things. This provides a great opportunity for the child to learn a very important life skill that they’ll use when they are an adult in the big, bad, real world. They must learn that they have to make tough decisions on what is important to keep, and what was important but can be let go. The good news is that even though you created the boundary, the child has control over what is kept, and ultimately what is removed from the box to fit more memorabilia.

1 Box Limit
An important thing to note here is that kids should only have one box or bin – not an unlimited number of boxes or bins. This box does not necessarily contain his/her baby blanket and clothing, artwork or schoolwork, or other items you have decided are worth keeping. The box is purely for items your child wants to keep.

There is one exception to the rule and that is if you or your child are particularly sentimental, you can do 1 box for every 10-years. That means on their 10th birthday, they get a new box to fill. The reason why is that when they eventually move out of your house, and into a place of their own, you don’t want to burden them with bins and bins of stuff to take with them. And believe me, you’ll eventually want this stuff out of your house!

Where It Lives
Make sure the box fits in a closet or under the bed so it can be tucked away but easily accessed. It should live in the child’s room so they have easy access to it.

Make it Fun!
I tell clients to make it fun for their kids so they’ll be excited about their time capsule. Find a box that they can decorate (white cardboard can be drawn on; plastic bins can have stickers and art taped to them) and make it their own. Here are some options for boxes and bins:

Encourage them to put things in the box, and encourage them to review it. You can also get them into it by talking about how an alien from another planet might come down and see the box and what would they know about your child based on what they discover:

  • their love of dinosaurs?
  • their interest in rocks and gems?
  • their extreme athleticism?
  • postcards from their camp pen pal?
  • their collection of collections?

Show Them How
The first time your child has to review their box, they will need your guidance. Begin by pulling items out into three categories:

  • keep
  • maybe
  • don’t need/want

Let them tell you the stories about why these items are important. When you hear your child talk about an item you can determine if they really love it or if it’s just something they want to keep.

Help them make the difficult decisions and tell them where the items they no longer need or want will go (will they be re-gifted or passed down in the family, will they go in the trash or recycling, will they be donated) so that the children can understand that their stuff doesn’t just disappear, it has a new life after it leaves your house, or what happens when items go to the landfill (these are all great lessons for kids).

You may have to help your child out a few times until they are able to make these decisions on their own.

Make it Their Choice
Ultimately, your child has control and gets to make the choice here. They may not like the choices (the box is full, you have to let go of something in order to put something new in), but in making them they are building very important decision-making habits that will aid them their entire life. This also means that even though you think that slime is disgusting or a major nuisance, you don’t get say in what goes into their box or what comes out of it. The final decision must be theirs for this to work.

So long as they are following the rules (limiting to one box; making hard decisions when the box is full), they get to keep whatever they want. Trust me, over the years your young child who will want to keep everything will turn into a teenager who will see some of that junk for what it is and get rid of it. Their priorities and preferences will change, and what remains in the box will indeed be a great time capsule of the most important items of their childhood, fit nicely into one box.

For the record – I still have my purple sunglasses (in the hopes one day my child will rock them like I did):

Lauren Mang
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