Which are you?
I used to be more of a pack-rat, but now I’m in full-tilt purger-mode. Or so I like to think. Maybe it has something to do with having 2 kids. You always hear about how much you will accumulate when you have children, but until you are living in the piles of toys (that are played with and abandoned), clothing (that fits and doesn’t fit) and just other weird stuff (jar of rubber goo that makes fart noises?) , you never really quite believe how you can end up with so many things in such a short period of time. Then, on top of that, if you own a house and have any assemblance of storage space, such as an attic or basement, forget it. You’re doomed to live amongst piles. So, piles be gone, I say!
Our attic apparently has a different idea. Our attic is a Gremlin.
The three rules about Gremlins (from the 1984 classic. God, I sound as old as the hills): No water, no food after midnight and no bright light.
Water: We do not have nor ever have had any water damage. Our house is old, old, old but somehow is as tight as a drum. Guess they don’t make them like they used to.
Light: It’s an attic. In a house that’s so old we have tree branches as the beams on our roof. I’m not kidding (same thing is holding UP the house in the cellar). When we bought the house and I was describing it to my Mom, I think she thought that we were moving into a tree house with Wendy and the Lost Boys. But the attic. There’s no light up there! Creep-factor is a “10”. Who knows what’s lurking behind that big stack of boxes in the crook of the roof? I’m not looking.
Feeding: This must have been where I have gone wrong. I’ve fed it. Not after midnight, but a little box “of things to donate” here and another few additions to the “emergency gift stash” there…”here’s one more Christmas ornament”…..oh boy.
I did it. I helped my things multiply.
Now what to do? I purge every year as those boxes start to multiply. Last fall I even took the time to go through every box. No joke. I got my Martha-on and organized like I had a compulsion. I think I do have a bit of that in my genes, though. My grandma on my Dad’s side could make Martha look like a hack. When we were clearing out her house after she passed away, I found a box that was labeled “Rubber Bands”. Yup, that’s what it was filled with. About a zillion of them. Another labeled “Safety Pins”. Every newspaper clipping from my Dad’s childhood was dated and marked with the publication it was lovingly cut from. Even her trusty sewing basket was carefully organized and sorted. This woman was amazing. She needs to help me with my attic. And others. Get Grandma on the scene.
So, I channel her now when I have to tackle my own home. I’m doing pretty well, too, as my shoe boxes are currently all marked with the contents (“b & w polka dotted wedge”, “red kitten heel”) and stacked neatly. Even the “holiday portion” of the attic is a force to be reckoned with. Thank you, Grandma. Hmm…amazing how things actually work better when you are organized. Go figure.
A friend of mine is currently wrestling with her two clothing closets. It’s been 12 years since anything came or went from them and now they have reached epic proportions. As she was telling me the other night, her husband dumped one whole closet’s worth on her bed, handed her a martini and said “three piles-dump, donate or keep”. The upside was that she was finding all sorts of goodies in there…different styles, a slew of different sizes. It was a like a treasure chest.
The thing that I’ve had the hardest time with, honestly, is the kids’ stuff. And yes, I say “stuff”. Specifically, their old clothing (so cute! when was she this small?!), the old stuffies (favorite bear), the kids’ books and….the….artwork. The killer. How could you EVER throw away any creative masterpiece that your child created??
I have. Believe it or not.
And this from an art major…
…who also now has the BEST system for these piles of art that were threatening to become virtual condo-complexes for attic creatures!
SHUTTERFLY has become my savior.
I have a system now. See, that’s where it starts. As soon as you start saying things like “I have a system” or “I label things this way”, you know you have arrived. Or at least are on the right road. So now, every summer I gather all my kids’ projects…art, writing, craft bohemoths…and take photos of each thing that I think is “save-able” or “fridgeworthy”. I photograph each piece individually on a big piece of white foam core and then I make a Shutterfly photo book for each year’s creations. Each is labeled (see?) with the dates, the school and little comments along the way (“you loved Dinos this year!”). After one of these 8 x 8 books arrives in my hands, I’ll put aside my FAVORITE ONE or TWO originals from the year and recycle everything else.
Does this sound callous to you mothers out there? The first time is the hardest then it’s smooth sailing. Trust me.
Why? Because you NOW have in your possession a series of the most wonderful, most sentimental, adorable memory books that will grace your shelves. What once took up honest-t0-God real estate in your attic gathering dust and little buggies that feed on old paper are NOW brilliant coffee table books.
No one saw them in the attic. What were they up there waiting for? But now, residing IN our living spaces, the kids and others will actually stop and flip through them. I might add, too, that any child is probably going to think it’s nothing short of fabulous to see their own work in print and in a book. Mine sure seem tickled.
With this mighty maneuver, I guess you could proclaim me a born-again purger. Keep the absolutes or if you must keep other things, at least find creative ways to do so. And boy, does it feel great.