Next came the sorting. What??? Complaints all around. How can we possibly sort all of this? It's too much. We can't do it! A big job does feel overwhelming, doesn't it? Enter a discrete Mom job.
I snuck into their room during the day and started picking up trash. I filled three (THREE!) garbage bags full of broken pieces and parts to toys we don't have any more and smashed up Valentine's boxes and dry markers and crumpled school papers from years ago and candy wrappers and crumbly play-dough and wrapping paper and used tissues and... It was impressive. I was careful not to take anything that looked like a treasure, but boy there was a lot of garbage!
Then I collected all their clothing from the floor. I hunted through piles and in boxes. And when the boys got home, I asked them to bring me all of the clothes from their dressers. All of it. I washed it all - nine loads worth! These boys definitely had too many clothes. They had their winter clothes that fit, plus summer clothes and winter clothes to grow into. I found boots and half a dozen pairs of snowpants and assorted sizes of coats. Piles of scarves and hats and gloves don't belong in their room! Neither do clothes that are too small. And they had lots of hand-me-downs that their older brothers had just tossed into their room.
After all the laundry was done, the boys and I went "shopping" through the clean clothes. They picked out enough clothes to cover them, but not so many that they wouldn't fit into their drawers. I threw away an entire garbage bag full of stained undershirts, unders that had lots their elastic, and hole-full socks. Out of the good clothes left over, I pulled enough to rotate back into their wardrobes when they wreck the next shirt, and we bagged up the rest to give to a family in need.
I found some things that tugged at my heartstrings.
The sweater on the left was a hand-me-down when Alec was a small fry. It was too big for him, but he rolled up the sleeves and wore it anyway. Every time I see it, it reminds me of his pluck and determination. The other boys have all had a turn with the sweater, but none of them have really wanted to wear it. Time for a new family.
The striped sweater on the right was made by my first mother-in-law. She spent hours of love-time knitting it for her oldest son, Jay. I have the sweetest pictures of him in the sweater, decades go. I'm sure his two younger brothers must have worn it as well. I'm not sure how we ended up with the sweater after Jay and I married, but each of our first five boys has worn and loved it. I'm amazed at the quality construction that makes it still look new after so long and so many boys. I love having boys. This one is going into my cedar chest to wait for the twins to get a little bit bigger. I don't think I could part with it just yet.
With the garbage out and the clothing under control, David and Eddie (with more Mom help) could sort the rest of their belongings. The four bins were Legos, things I want, things I don't want, and (more!) garbage. We did it! And no wonder they couldn't keep their room clean with that much stuff in it. Way too much.
Now the things in their room are back down to a manageable number, just waiting for us to buy some good bins (they've just had an assortment of old, falling-apart moving boxes), and sort the things they do want. Success! And may we never again let it get that bad!