In a moment of inspiration – or perhaps after watching one too many episodes of Fixer Upper – I decided to start clearing things out of my kitchen cabinets and basement last weekend.

All I can say is: Holy hoarder.

In the span of about 24 hours, I uncovered the following items:

  • A dozen slightly-yellowed cloth dinner napkins – monogrammed of course – which I received as a gift from my college roommate at my bridal shower almost 25 years ago.
  • The portacrib my third child slept in for the first 18 months of her life, set up alongside my bed in which her dad and I would wake to find her standing with her chin on the railing staring at us.
  • The copper mixing bowl my former mother-in-law gave me years ago when I fancied myself a younger, poorer version of Martha Stewart whipping soft peaks of egg whites and cream at a moment’s notice.
  • About a decade’s-worth of children’s costumes – a doggie, a sexy Jasmine, a Pink Lady, Nintendo’s Mario, Cleopatra, Max from Where the Wild Things Are and the cutest little Itsy Bitsy Spider number my baby wore as a toddler.
  • All the Halloween decorations that now have become de rigueur in neighborhoods all over town (which I had resisted for so long until my poor children, desperate for a yard full of horror, wore me down) – giant rubber hands with stakes to appear as if they had erupted from the earth; foam tombstones that read “RIP” and “Izzy Dead” that I could never get to stand up in the grass; bags of cobwebs we’d string along the shrubs at the front of the house and a string of tiny orange lights we hung around the front door to light the way for all those trick-or-treaters.
  • A crib mattress. Can’t remember what happened to the actual crib that all four babies slept in. Some for long after they were babies (#sorrymaddie).
  • The two remaining floral Tiffany plates that were part of a larger set given to me at that long ago bridal shower by my high school friend and former post-college roommate who left this world way too soon. I still can’t believe she is gone and struggle with ousting those pretty plates.
  • Four child-sized ski helmets, passed down, lent out, plastered with stickers from ski trips from long ago and most probably now, many years later, outdated.
  • A few boxes filled with so much of my ex-husband’s warm weather wardrobe – circa 2008 – leaving me to wonder what the man had left to wear the summer after he moved out and left it all behind.
  • Remnants from well-meaning projects, begun with gusto and lots of credit card expenses that never quite saw their way through to completion. Empty bottles from all the limoncello I was going to brew for friends one Christmas. Bolts of fabric for chair covers and pillows that never quite happened. And mason jars. Lots of mason jars. For what, I could not tell you.
  • The innards of a dog bed. Two dogs ago.
  • The floral-covered ottoman that was in the sunroom of our first house. Two houses ago.
  • The well-loved Brio train table I stored in hopes that it would one day be enjoyed by my many, many grandchildren only to discover that some errant graffiti artist drew a nude woman on the front. To the artist’s credit, the octopus woman does resemble something out of Picasso’s Blue Period. Including her breasts.
  • The framed poster of a tomato I brought to hang on my dorm room wall freshman year of college exactly 237 years ago.
  • A cardboard box full of trophies. Baseball. Softball. Tennis. Dance. Mostly to be filed under: Everyone’s a winner. A few standouts. Swim team MVP. Coach’s award. Those I put aside, unable to scrap just yet.
  • Serving trays. Lots of cutlery. Baskets galore. A rug. A nightstand. A metallic puffer coat I bought at Old Navy for $7 and wore once (probably the right call there). Shin guards. Tiny tennis skirts and matching panties. A Rubbermaid box full of jerseys from our town rec teams – baseball, basketball, soccer and later, lacrosse – and more blue and white sports shorts than one family could possibly need. Packages of plate hangers. A dog cage. Crutches just right for Tiny Tim.

I am going ahead and throwing a lot of stuff away — like the crib mattress and broken items. But have a hard time tossing perfectly good items so have tasked my 17yo with organizing a garage sale in a couple of weeks to help ease my conscience. I need to hurry though because last time our garage was really cluttered we found a cat and now she lives in my house and owns a Snuggie (we actually found a garbage bag full of those, too).

I had my girlfriend across the street come over to check out all the crap that had migrated to our garage and thought she was going to go into shock at the sight of it all. She’s a purger. A minimalist. She’s always cleaning something out and has about three items hanging from the rod in her closet. I had enlisted her to help me let go of all that stuff. Things I thought I needed as proof. As if all the memories living in my head and my heart weren’t enough.

She can be brutal.

I pulled a hand-painted glass cake dome out of one of my kitchen cabinets and as I stood atop a stool and admired it – remembering where it had come from and how I treasured it 20-something years ago – she walked over and plucked it out of my hands and set it down on the table along with other items to be weeded out of my house.

“Say good-bye,” she said as she walked away.

And so I did.

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10 thoughts on “Memory Hoarder: How to Let Go

  1. I’m with your friend, Amy. Time to purge. I did the same awhile ago: donated Halloween costumes to a preschool for dress ups and gave all spooky decorations to my newly-married stepdaughter who LOVES Halloween. Sadly, I tried to get rid of cribs, jolly jumpers, car seats, etc. but apparently, we are such dinosaurs that none are considered ‘safe’ anymore! Having said all this, my high school prom dress is hanging in my closet. No lie.

  2. one suggestion…send the old t shirts to “project repat”…they will make a gorgeous quilt out of them…great gift for your kids!

  3. I have my grandmother’s fur coat in my attic. At least I think it is my grandmother’s fur coat. It might just be a pile of fur-like stuff on the attic floor because I’m too afraid to investigate. As for the rest of the stuff I’ve accumulated, I could definitely use your friend to help me purge. Love your blog Amy!

  4. Oh yes, I tend to keep things that are sentimental. Babboo on the other hand keeps EVERYTHING. Today I have filled a couple garbage bags and boy does it feel good. Makes me feel like I’m clearing my head when everything is in its place.

  5. So, only because I know from experience, you should have one of your kids list some of those items on Ebay – or at least check their value – I know for SURE that the costumes (if in good condition) will make you some good $$ about a month before Halloween! Just a thought! Any bigger things sell better on Craigslist. People come to garage sales and only want to pay a quarter or 50 cents for things – so anything you’d like to get more for, or know is more valuable, think about Ebay or Craigslist!

    • SO TRUE! If the sticker said $2, the potential buyer wanted to give me $1. So annoying. The good news, though, is that my garage and crawl space are now clean, clean, clean and I no longer own a crib mattress. Thanks for the good tips … 🙂

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