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Full House One mother considers what to save and what to toss

It needs to go. All of it. OK, most of it.

It’s March and I am mad about the clutter. I am taking it into my own hands. I admit that when no one is looking, things go missing — for good. My husband is a hoarder and so is my daughter, Grace. They like to save everything. Daughter Paige is like me — she believes in getting rid of things. Over the holidays, Paige cleaned out the coffee-table drawer that was full of pictures, coloring books, crayons, games and miscellaneous items from her and her sister’s childhood — things no one has bothered to look at for years. She threw away items fast and furiously — even pictures.

Most of pictures had duplicates, but she wanted throw away more. Fortunately, Grace and my husband — who were looking on — refused to let her do away with them. “I will never let you go through my things,” my husband told Paige.  Grace took what she wanted, made a big pile and subsequently left it in the middle of the floor. I later took it up to her room, where the pile became part of another pile. How long do we have to hold on to our children’s homemade gifts from school? Those ashtrays. The artwork. The school papers.

I tried to throw out an entire year of school work belonging to both girls from their elementary school days and my husband dug it out of recycling. But one day when I was cleaning up, I began scooping up things I knew no one was going to miss. I knew this because they hadn’t been touched in years — the girls had probably forgotten all about them. I got rid of artwork. I emptied an entire drawer full of teacher’s reports from Grace’s preschool. Then I came across a drawer full of old basketball and soccer uniforms. I was all set to send them to Goodwill when I was caught. Yep.

My husband rescued them, and I am sure they are in the basement somewhere, adding to the clutter there. Yes, that’s where things go when I can’t take it anymore. I do hold on to quirky cards and letters from my children. I have saved some papers and some artwork I thought were outstanding. And I have their report cards in case they want them years from now.

I know because I have every one of my father’s report cards from preschool to college. He and my grandmother saved them all, and I love having them because they tell a story. Plus, they are neat and organized and not taking up much room. My parents saved a trunk of my treasured items. It’s clutter in my basement. But it’s just one trunk. My husband has boxes and boxes of papers. It’s too much. He needs a trunk. I need to get rid of the clutter, because I know how burdensome it can be on those left behind. When my parents died and I had to clean out their house, the clutter was overwhelming. They kept everything. When my mother was living and I would help her clean her house, she would not let me get rid of anything. She said it was, in a way, getting rid of her.

I think it’s important to hang on to those exceptional items for your children so that they can look back and share them with their own kids. But you can’t hold on to it all. I have a mobile hanging in my kitchen that Paige made that says she loves me. I will always keep that. I have letters that Santa wrote to them (OK, I wrote). I have letters they wrote to me when they were mad at me. I have letters my daughters wrote to one another when they were angry.

I saved many of Paige’s baby clothes in a hope chest I have for her. Recently, she told me she didn’t want them. So, I threw them out. I also got rid of the hundreds of cards I received for my wedding that were in there (checking each of them for money I may have missed). I suggest asking your children if they want to save the things you have. If you are sure things are not wanted, be done with them. Thanks to the smartphone, you can always take picture of the item so it’s not gone forever. Since Grace is away this semester in Africa, I can work on her clutter. And when my husband’s not looking, I am taking a trash bag to the basement.

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