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My 5 1/2 year old son strongly resists throwing away wrappers and packaging, saying that he can make something out of it later. I find stashes of popsicle sticks, toy packaging etc. He also doesn't want to pass on clothing that is too small. What might be going on here and how can I help him feel more comfortable in letting go of things?


Dr. Steven Kairys Replied: Your son shows some signs of obsessive compulsive problems. Are there are other behaviors or activities that also hint as such a problem, or are the wrappers and clothing the only issues?
Posted On 2006-07-24 08:21:47
Penny Warner Replied: My son went through sometthing similar. I think it's two-fold. One - your son is very creative and sees value in "recycling" things. Two - he becomes attached to things he likes and doesn't want to get rid of them. I'd let him continue holding onto things that he treasures, unless they can be passed on to better use, then explain to him how his clothes help other children. Perhaps save one or two of his favorite shirts, or make a quilt out of his old clothes as a treasured memory. Then, when he's done with something or forgotten about it, go through his "rat pack" and toss out anything that is obviously used up, discarded, or...attracting ants!
Posted On 2006-07-23 12:24:38
Trish Booth, MA Replied: Some people are born collectors. Help him limit his collection by getting a storage container made of plastic or a nylon mesh. Get one that will hold only slightly more than his current stash. Then explain that it is fine to collect things but there has to be a limit. The limit is what will fit in the container. Anything beyond that or stashed in other places will be thrown away. The first few times of loosing what isn't in the container will be difficult. However, he will learn to choose and properly store the items that are most valuable to him. Perhaps having a family clothing drive will be helpful. Talk about the value of helping others by passing on clothing that no longer fits. Go through your own things and choose what needs to be passed on. Talk about the happiness you will bring others when they get this clothing. Then together sort his clothing. If he can't do this and declares each item his favorite or something he needs, stop the activity saying you'll do it another day. Later, take away the too-small items when he isn't around. Keep them out of sight for a few weeks so that he gets used to their being gone. Then pick a day to pass on the family clothing. Put the box in the car so you both can take it to a shelter or organization like Goodwill or the Salvation Army. If he begs to keep the clothing, suggest he keep one item as a remembrance of when he wore that size. You choose the item and casually talk about why it would be a good one to keep. Having him look through the box to select the item will only remind him of all he is giving away. After this first give-away, keep a box in his closet to put clothing that doesn't fit. You can create a small ritual of putting items in the box when you discover they are too small. If you remove just one item at a time, he may feel less separation anxiety.
Posted On 2006-07-20 12:22:44
Pamela Waterman Replied: I know that "stashes" can drive you crazy (the look of the mess, the possible bug-attraction) but your son must be wonderfully creative! I'd get a special Rubbermaid-type bin with a lid just for him, and find a place for it in your house. (We have a cupboard that is a designated "craft center.") When he has something he wants to keep, tell him that if it's clean, he can keep it if he puts it there and only there. If you find it anywhere else, you have the right to throw it away. Maybe you could also do a craft with him, perhaps glueing his favorite wrappers on construction paper and making a card or a sign for his room or for a gift. You might also buy him a box of craft sticks as a substitute for the used popsicle ones - tell him it's hard to get food and possible germs off the used ones, so you're giving him these, but other items he can keep. Regarding the clothing, it can just be hard to let go of old favorites - that's normal. Start by having him give one item of clothing away whenever you buy one new one. If he's really resistant, I'd just quietly pack away a few items and see if he even notices. I did that with seldom-used toys. If no one asked about it after three months, I gave it away. When my children reached about age 7, I also had them come with me when I donated surplus stuffed animals (not their favorites at all) to a home for abused children, so they could be personally thanked. They liked that!
Posted On 2006-07-19 17:58:03
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