I've been a decluttering machine as of late. Okay, when I say "as of late", I really mean "these last couple of years"... ever since our hot water tank broke, and we were forced to deal with the kajillion boxes in our basement.
Each box we opened felt like a trip back in time. WAY back in time. I found myself shredding receipts going back over 5 years, documents going back to the late '80s, datebooks from my university days, and 25-year-old journals harbouring the sadness and negativity of my youth that I was now ready to release. The kids helped take care of their own stuff by boxing up good toys they no longer used. I think we donated 8 boxes of these toys to the Children's Hospital during the first pass alone!As for my husband -- well, he's the real reason why this clutter-clearing has taken a couple of years. About 75% of those boxes were his.
Like many kids of parents who grew up during the Depression, he inherited his parents' need to keep every little thing just in case, like his Olivia Newton-John "Let's Get Physical" headband and matching wristbands, his judo gi from his teen years (he's 42), and his cassette of Oingo Boingo's "Nothing to Fear" with the tape mangled and stretched to unplayable proportions.
I've tried to be patient, and I've never gone and disappeared anything behind his back. So, by the time the water tank blew, I was seriously at the end of my rope.
I never really understood his strong emotional connection to stuff, this need to hang on to things, until last week, when it was time for me to decide the fate of the kids' old playpen.
In its collapsed state, all rolled up in its carrying bag, the playpen was just a nuisance, the thing I'd stub my toe on every time I reached for the box of wrapping paper. But after I set it up -- I needed to take pictures of it for Craigslist -- it was once again the place where my baby boy played and discovered his toes, where my baby girl fell asleep under the shade of the lilac bush while I puttered in the garden, and where we eventually stored numerous much-loved stuff animals when the kids were too big to use it for themselves.
How could I so callously and so heartlessly dispose of something that was such a special part of our babies' lives?!
Before I could even take one shot, I sat and cried a little... okay, a lot. Then my 5-year-old daughter, the one who played in that very playpen, came up, put her little arms around me, and said, "It's okay, Mommy -- it's very beautiful. If you want, I can save it for my own baby."
I smiled back at her. "No, we have no space for it, and besides, when you have babies, I'll get you one that's even better than this." And that's when I realized that this is what my husband goes through with every box he opens -- embracing memories and mourning yet moving on.
I understand now just how difficult this process of letting go can be. It's been a lot of work, but my husband now keeps only the things that really hold meaning to him, and many of his self-admittedly pointless mementos have made their way out the door. He still has many boxes to open, and I don't always know his reasons for keeping things, but no, I'm not going to rush him. Not anymore.
This is an original Canada Moms Blog post by NenetteAM who also
writes about her favourite people, places, and things at Life Candy, tweets at @NenetteAM,
is still trying to find a good enough new home for her babies' beloved playpen...