Monday, November 14, 2011

Stuffed with Stuff

When we moved into this house, I marveled. So much space. Surely we’d never come close to filling up the cabinets and closets. Yes, I was naïve.

Flash forward so many years, and those cabinet and closet doors are a challenge to close sometime. How did we amass so much stuff? And why is it all so necessary that I can’t part with it?

My hesitance to let go of things is a chronic condition. I wasn’t good at doing it as a kid or a teenager. Everything has a sentimental attachment. And while most of my neurosis comes courtesy of my addled brain, some of it a can chalk up to heredity. My dad saves everything. It’s organized, but it’s there (mostly in his garage – come see it some time and be astounded by the amount of pure stuff he has socked away and yet still has everything in its place). Mom is also a saver, although she’ll probably tell you a different story. But my kids are certainly glad for her retention of such a vast array of toys from my childhood, and some from hers and my dad’s. (It’s OK, Mom, I’m giving you a compliment. Please don’t firebomb my comments.) When I’d try to bag up clothes for Goodwill, Mom would go through them and start reminiscing. How could I give them away after that?

I’m trying to get better. This spring, we emptied the attic, and I went through everything ruthlessly. I looked at the old letters from high school (when we still put pen to paper), the souvenir trinkets, the bags of toys, and I purged, purged, purged. And while I still hung on to some baby items (I can’t decide if I want to donate them or consign them or just leave them there out of fear under I’m old and shriveled), I think I did a pretty good job. There’s far more room up there, and you can actually see where things are.

However. The playroom. Oh sweet mother of buffalo, it’s a black hole. Toys just keep getting sucked in and nothing comes out (unless the kids decide all the toys must be spread out throughout the house, tornado-style). I’ve done the occasional sweep-in-after-bedtime-and-bag-up-some-forgotten – and-outgrown-toys removal campaigns, but it never seems like I’ve made much of a dent. I’m terrified that something I’d earmarked for elimination will suddenly be the next day’s MDO (Most Desired Object). Or that I should save something for posterity like my mom did for me. My kids have played with every single thing in that room at one time or another, so everything has a memory. But I also feel like I’m drowning in a Toys R Us.

With the holidays fast approaching, I’m feeling the weight a little more acutely, and would love to thin the herd before it’s replenished. I just have no idea how to go about it.

So, tell me, what do I do? Should I involve the kids and risk them vetoing every single jettison? Do I just keep going until I’m buried alive? Do I cull out the majority on Christmas Eve and tell them Santa has a take some leave some policy? I need strategy here, Folks. In the words of Penelope Pitstop, HALP!


  1. I have to sneak things out in the middle of the night. Elizabeth is starting to notice that though. She's seen Toy Story 3 though, so I just tell her that Andy took whatever it was to college with him.

  2. Right now I do the "sort while they're sleeping" method. I do remember being involved as a kid, although definitely a little older. And when we were involved it was more of -- pick what you want to get rid of-- and less-- how about this? So it was up to us, be we had to choose at least a few things.