Why You Should Trash Your Childhood

I have a lot of Star Wars toys from when I was a kid. The movies were re-released along with the prequels when I was in middle school and I saw them all with my dad. I loved thinking about Star Wars. I loved pretending to be in Star Wars. I loved dreaming about Star Wars. So I did what most kids I knew did – saved up all of my allowance to buy an action figure every once and a while.

I'm at my parents' place for the holidays right now, and have been sorting through my old belongings and throwing out a lot of things. I knew that there was a box of my old Star Wars stuff in the attic. After throwing out so much crap I was expecting to open my box of Star Wars toys and say "Yup, I remember you. You are my childhood treasures, and I love you all." Instead I opened the box and was filled with mostly flimsy and unmaintained plastic junk.

It wasn't even that the toys were in bad shape, it was that they were never in good shape to begin with. They were just cheap plastic toys. But as a kid who spent a lot of time in his own head they were everything – my connection into a world that I loved. In my memories these toys were fantastic and unbelievable – they weren't pieces of plastic, they were conduits to fantasy.

But that feeling was entirely lost as I stood over the bent flimsy plastic legs of an AT-ST. The main reason for keeping these toys was so I would remember the good times I had thinking about Star Wars. The anticipation leading up to opening the box had reminded me of just how many memories like this that I had. But when I opened the box the actual toys created disappointment – the objects lived in my memory better than they evoked the memory.

So I threw most of it out. The few toys I saved were mostly small pieces, and I didn't even have many memories with them. It's almost as if their nonexistence in my memory allowed me to create new memories now with a reborn sense of fondness. The stuff I threw away, that I remember most from my childhood, will live on much better in my memory anyways.

The toys I ended up keeping.

The toys I ended up keeping.