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January 01, 2007

The Last Re-Run

The Last Re-Run
by Harley

Major holidays fill me with a compulsion to clear out closets, so please excuse the re-run post: must clean son's room again. Tomorrow, it's back to TLC's regular schedule, and all fresh posts.

(from June 2006)
Pack-rat-ism. I don’t know what percentage of the population has it, but a few of them are living in my house.

Here’s how I found out: Lately I’ve been running into conversations about downsizing, simplifying, and reducing clutter. Spiritual traditions advocate it, aesthetic values encourage it, environmental activism demands it. But when I heard it at Weight Watchers—Weight Watchers!—that clinched it. Any connection, no matter how tenuous, between losing weight and carting stuff off to the Goodwill is good enough for me.

I began with my closet, then hit the kitchen, and even made preliminary raids on the overflowing bookshelves. Nothing too scary—just unloading the obvious, like WHAT TO EXPECT WHEN YOU’RE EXPECTING, which I never liked anyway. This past Friday I moved on to the kids’ bedrooms.

I picked my four-year old son first—the easiest, I figured. I waited till he was at preschool, having discovered that my children, while philosophically open to the idea of giving things away, have no intention of parting with so much as a Barbie high heel when you get right down to it.

Anything he genuinely cared about stayed; anything I’d seen him with in the last six months stayed. What went? The 41rocks that inhabited his sock drawer, the eight lipsticks he stole from me, three M.I.T. alumni magazines and massive amounts of broken, miscellaneous plastic stuff. Also, shopping bags he likes to fill with things collected from the house—dog leashes, cheese graters, and the day’s strangest item, a small box of hair. Some things got dumped, some recycled, some reintroduced into the general population. Six boxes of baby books (including all literature relating to the joys of using the potty) got their pink slips.

Three hours later, my car was headed to the donation bin, crammed to the sunroof. Like some species of ant, my son had accumulated four hundred times his weight in junk in the last year.

His reaction to the purge? None. He didn’t notice that two-thirds of his room was gone. Exactly what the Clutter Queen (from whom I took a four-hour seminar in the 90’s) claimed would happen. “You’ll never miss it!”

Until yesterday. It was the twins’ birthday party, and my husband, packing the car for the park, asked where the new rocket was. Everyone shrugged.


I asked what the rocket looked like. The reason I didn’t know was because my husband bought it while I was at the Romantic Times Convention.

“Plastic,” my husband said. “Five pieces. Blue and yellow.”

Oh, that. Yes, I remembered that. It looked like broken junk. I ran out to the trash cans, opened every Hefty bag, and found a week’s worth of . . . garbage. No rocket. The rocket was in the donation bin. I considered running away from home, but I was needed for the birthday party. I returned to the house and confessed that I’d given my son’s new rocket to The Poor.

My oldest daughter screamed. The twins continued eating breakfast. My husband stared at me, stricken, as thought I’d announced I’d shot the dog. I seriously thought he might break down and weep. Instead, he sucked it up and headed for Target in search of a new rocket.

Now, post-birthday party, we have a houseful of brand new incomprehensible plastic junk with lots of bulky packaging that requires the jaws of life to open. I am spiritually back where I started, I have 26 thank-you notes to write, and I don’t feel any thinner.

But I can sleep nights, knowing our home contains one less box of hair.

Happy Monday!


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How much did the Clutter Queen ask for that 4-hour workshop, Harley? Because with all this Christmas junk scattered around the house, I'm kinda in the mood to purge.

One of the nice things about having grown-up kids (even the ones who live with you) is that you can actually have a Christmas without filling the house with plastic junk.

I have to admit that my husband is a much better purger-of-junk than I am, and way much better at living without, well, stuff in general. But I'm trying to learn from him and at least am pretty good about taking advantage of various opportunities -- like daughter moving back home and, coming soon, the master bathroom remodelling project -- to do my part.

Here's wishing everyone a clutter-free New Year!

The kids are going back to school (which I hate - much rather have them here) and I have been warning them about junk during the entire break. Once they're gone, I'm bringing in the bins - stuff for the various cousins, Goodwill, etc. Cannot wait.

Happy 2007!

Kathy, I, on the other hand, am counting the minutes until tomorrow morning when primary school and preschool resume.

But taking down the Christmas stuff? Oy, vay

Oh: Nancy, that workshop was so long ago the Clutter Queen may well be dead by now. If not, there is no price too high for her services.

Welll...I....um...have not changed much since this article was posted 6 months ago. Perhaps I should apply for Museum status for my collectibles???

Thus far...2007 has been better than 2006, let's keep the momentum moving!!!!!

Yes, Dave, I agree. A great year so far. Went to the grocery store with the kids this morning and had the whole place practically to ourselves.

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