Is Decluttering the same as Saying Goodbye?

Pirate cutout Not too long ago, I went on a cleaning binge.  One of the things I threw out was a poster-sized blow up of a picture of me from my wedding.  My husband had blown up pictures from several different stages of my life to decorate the room in which he threw me a surprise 40th birthday party.  The party now being mymble-farrumph years ago, it seemed time to toss the giant blow up of my face.

The porter in our building, however, didn’t see it that way.  He could not throw it away.  First, he brought it back to our door. “You must have thrown this out by mistake,’ he said, handing it back to me. I assured him that, no, I just didn’t really want a giant blown up picture of myself.  Still, he couldn’t throw it away.  It just seemed wrong to him, he said. It was my wedding picture.  He kept it in the building’s staff room for months until one of the other doormen finally got tired of looking at me, and threw it away himself.

And now, as my parents contemplate selling their country home, and I go about cleaning out the rooms in which my children have spent every summer since they were born, (and my family has spent every summer for the past 25 years) I know just how he felt.  I don’t really WANT  four hundred and ninety-seven scribbles drawings from my twins’ second summer at the house, but somehow, it seems wrong to throw them away.

Let me first say, I am not a hoarder.  And not: I am not a hoarder in the creepy “yes I really am a hoarder I’m just so far gone that I don’t know it” way that the real hoarders on that A&E show mean it.  I’m really not.

Two or three times a year, I have my kids go through their toys and saved school work, and together, we do “keep or throw.”  We’ve gotten rid of LOTS of things that way.  And given away a lot, too. “Throw,” more often than not mean “give away.”  My wardrobe is in constant overhaul mode.  Anything I haven’t worn in two years is OUT. I regularly go through the medicine cabinet and toss anything that’s out of date. Getting rid of things is not the problem.

It’s just getting rid of these things.

There’s the pink bathing suit and coverup set my daughter wore the summer she was two.  I’ll never forget her strolling onto the patio with it on and then carefully taking off the robe, thinking for a moment, then taking off the bathing suit, and finaly heading into the bow-up kiddie pool.

I know I’ll always have the memory.  But I kinda want to have the suit, too.

Or what about the endless paintings my kids did in their summer at the Parrish Museum Art Camp.  This being The Hamptons, my then five year olds didn’t just paint, oh no, they went to visit Jackson Pollack’s house, and then went back to camp and made paintings inspired by his work. Seriously.

I can’t throw those away.

There are the “Welcome Home Daddy” signs they made, and then took to the train station, where they stood on the platform, he in his pirate costume, she in her tutu,(that’s them in the picture) waiting for Daddy to come out to country after working all week in the city.

There are finger paintings, and birdhouses, and bath toys, and doll strollers.

And it all brings back so much that I can’t bring myself to give it away.

Of course I know it’s ridiculous.  I know I can’t hold on to their babyhood forever.  But maybe, just maybe, I can hold on to the physical evidence of their babyhood just a little bit longer.  And maybe then, if I’m really lucky, they’ll stay my babies a little bit longer too.

Original Post to NYC Moms Blog.

Nancy Friedman write about momming, aging, and her 20 year quest to lose same ten pounds, at From  Hip to Housewife.

Comments

  1. says

    I’m in the middle of what will probably end up being a transatlantic move and its tough. We’ve inherited loads of antiques from Husbando’s family which have to stay and already I have an ever growing box of Little Miss’ items that I can’t bear to part with. That said I also think its so lovely when mums hang onto a child’s things – we loved going through the things our parents kept when I was pregnant!

  2. says

    Hey there! Yep, I know just how hard it is to down-size your memory stash. I went thru everything early last year giving away and junking things like mad to put the house on the market. Just when I thought I was done dearest husband comes in and asks, “What about all those boxes in the garage?”
    Ugh! This fall I am tackling the garage and the basement boxes as we once again put the house on the market.
    I really want it to sell so de-junking is a must! Unfortunately, my heart just isn’t as sensible as my head in this arena.

  3. sakina says

    Hi! This was like reading something, someone had written about me, my life and my feelings. Totally got everything you said. I have boxes of memorabilia i call my treasure boxes filled with things my three kids hav drawn, painted, written, made. They are going to be my comfort and instruments of painful nostalgia as i grow older. I had fun reading your piece. 🙂

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