01/29/2015 05:25 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Getting Rid of Kid Clutter, One Milestone at a Time

Robyn Passante

Some parents celebrate their children's growth using hash marks on a door frame. Others marvel -- or weep -- at the increasing heft and strength of their little one each time he or she leaps into their arms.

I celebrate my children's growth every time I get to throw something out.

It's not that I lack any sense of nostalgia for days gone by, when every precious babble and coo was captured on video and their little heads smelled like Johnson & Johnson's lavender baby wash. (Seriously, how intoxicating is that stuff?) It's just that very small human beings necessitate the ownership of a huge amount of extra crap around the house. And I am not a big fan of extra crap around the house. Just ask my sister, who panicked last summer when I mentioned I was having a garage sale.

"What are you selling?!" she asked in an accusatory tone, mentally calculating how quickly she could drive from her house in New York to my house in Pennsylvania and chain herself to all of my junk, as my de-cluttering urge is matched only by her need to keep all the things forever. "Well, I've decided to keep the couch, and the children," I smirked. And I meant it.

So you can imagine how happy I was last night when I went in to check on the teeth-brushing progress of my 5-year-old and noticed that he was not using the bathroom stool, which he had always, until that very moment, used. I pointed this out to him, and he turned toward me with more pride on his face than an entire rainbow-filled parade.

I of course made a huge deal about such a momentous milestone, with high-fives and a giant hug and an, "Oh my goodness, when did you get so big?!" He ran to tell his brother the news that he had suddenly, somehow, in one afternoon become tall enough to stand at the sink, while I stood in the bathroom doorway, the stool already in my hands, plotting my next move. Yessss!, I thought. After almost five years, we can finally lose this stupid stool that takes up one-fifth of our bathroom floor and is perpetually stained with muddy footprints and toothpaste drippings!

That's when they both bounded back into the bathroom and looked at me in horror.

"Mommy! What are you doing with the stool?!"

"Nobody needs it anymore!" I sing-songed gleefully. "We can probably give it to a family with really little kids who still need help reaching things." Stressing generosity rarely works with my children; I'm not sure why I keep trying it.

"But we still need it!" said the 7-year-old emphatically, rattling off an exhaustive list of every item in the house they still can't reach -- much of which is up that high specifically to prevent them from doing so. I could tell they were digging in on this issue, and no amount of reasoning with them could adequately explain how keeping a six-inch-high stool would not help them reach the basket of extra batteries Mommy keeps on the top shelf of the kitchen cabinet.

So I took a deep breath and considered my other de-cluttering victories -- I mean their growth milestones! -- in recent months.

The last toddler bed. More importantly, the corner of the last toddler bed, which had loved to find my shin bone very suddenly and forcefully in the dark.

The Learning Tower. Enjoyed using it in the kitchen when the boys wanted to help me bake; hated that it took up roughly the same square footage as the average New York City apartment.

The child-sized potty seat. Had been grossly dangling from its handle attached to the toilet for a longer stretch than I can remember changing diapers, and reeked of pee no matter how many times I disinfected it.

The childproof lock on the under-the-sink cabinet. Prevented only me from retrieving every cleaning product I had ever needed.

The booster seat. Would have been happier about ditching this sticky mess if I hadn't unlocked it from the chair it had been strapped to for three years and discovered it had completely scraped away the chair's wood stain in horrendous fashion, leaving me to ponder buying patio seat cushions for the dining room.

Satisfied that Operation: Get This Extra Crap Out Of My House, Because We Apparently Need More Room For Transformers is generally moving forward, I agreed to hide the stool in the hallway closet for whenever they need it to reach something. Later on, I brushed my teeth with a satisfied grin, marveling at how much more real estate I have in there. In fact, the only thing left on the bathroom floor is the giant, contoured plastic cup I use at bath time. It is currently tucked discreetly in the corner of the room.

But not for long.

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