For the longest time, until I was in my late twenties, I was considered a pack rat. People like my mother, who keeps nothing and alphabetizes spices, and my husband, who is also into the no clutter rule, laughed (in a frantic way) about all of the things that I had kept over the years: concert tickets, napkins from special events, pressed flowers from various people whom I no longer recalled.
In a moment of complete sanity I purged most of what I had kept, including diaries from my youth that contained great insight into the world (“Laura is, like, so rude!”) and those little trinkets that had meant so much to me over the years. I kept only one box of momentos, which is now stored in my closet and taken out from time to time when I begin to feel nostalgic and want a piece of my past.
Obviously, I now miss all of that stuff that I tossed and wonder why I threw it out.
Now, as we get ready to move across the country, I’m going through not only my stuff but my children’s things as well. If it was difficult to toss out what I had diligently accumulated over the years, imagine how tough it is to get rid of their baby items!
I know, for instance, that we don’t need the high chair any longer, and yet it still hovers in the corner of our dining room. I just can’t let it go. It saw us through two babies. It kept us sane at the dinner table until both girls learned how to climb out of it – and into it – and it became too dangerous to use.
And the toys that both girls played with when they were younger, the ones that have long since disappeared into the bottom of the toy bin because, to the girls, they are now so boring, bring back such fond memories to me that I just can’t put them in the “Out” sack. I mean, how will I feel if I throw away that little buzzer item my mom bought my first daughter during her most colicky days? The toy that was meant to calm her down? But if I hold on to that one, then I’ll have to hold on to the singing caterpillar, because that completely took the edge off of both girls. And the bottles, the pacifiers, the ribbons, the shoes . . . how do you let these go?
So, that brings this pack rat to ponder this question: What stays and what goes? The clothes that are stained I toss out, of course, but the ones that aren’t? That they both wore? Like the cute little denim skirt or the teddy bear shirt? I’ll keep those a bit longer, I think. I know we aren’t having more children, so I’m not keeping them for future use, but those clothes meant so much to me that I just can’t bear to think of them somewhere else, in someone else’s house. One day I know that I will want to sit down and look through a box that contains all of my children’s items. At that point, my children may have children of their own, and I will be older and in need of some rememberance from these days, the good days, when we packed up our items and headed to a new town, to a new life, when the girls were still just tots.
The high chair, I know, has to go. I can’t continue to carry that around from town to town, should we happen to move a lot; and if we stay in one place, it will take up too much space and then disintegrate so that the girls won’t even be able to use it for their own children. Yet we fed both babies in that chair. We watched them go from needing a head rest to sitting up on their own to climbing in and out of the seat. How do you say goodbye to that? And the bouncer, which kept both babies quiet long enough for me to get a shower. Those big items I can’t keep, but for some reason I just can’t seem to let them go. I took a picture of them, and we have pictures of the girls using them, but that just isn’t the same.
Which leads me to the small stuff, because if I can’t get rid of a huge piece of equipment that no longer gets used, how in the world do I toss out the girls’ old books, dolls, blocks, and other play things?
So I’ve come to this realization. I’ll share it with you now: I can’t. My husband and mom will have to be left out in the dark about the little items that I do keep. These will be stored in a box (or three) and put in the back of a closet for a while. Then, one day when I’m feeling nostalgic I will pull them out and enjoy them then as I do now, these little things from our life that have meant so much.