Mothers' Experiences Related to the Disposal of Children's Clothing and Gear: Keeping Mister Clatters but Tossing Broken Barbie

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Drawing upon depth interviews with mothers, this study explores meanings attached to children's items disposed of through various channels. Items with little value (rubbish) such as broken toys were typically thrown away. Items that had deep personal meaning for the mothers but that lacked clear value to others (mementos) are kept in storage without plans for the future transfer of ownership to anyone else. Some mementos are extensions of the children's identities; they are often contaminated from use by the children and/or indexed to specific memories held by the mothers. Items that have less personal meaning for the mothers but that might be useful to other families (wares) were redistributed through giving, selling or donating. Baby wares were typically given to other mothers, while wares for older children were donated to charity. Interviewees described keeping some items on display or in storage with the intention of passing them on to children or grandchildren at a later time (intended heirlooms). Intended heirlooms have mythologized stories of origin, they affirm family identity, and some demonstrate properties of sacredness. Suggested directions for future research include further exploration of mothers' giving to other mothers and identity issues related to disposal.