I have heard that there’s a reality show where professionals help obsessive hoarders get rid of accumulated stuff and organize their home. I don’t think I’m bad enough to be a candidate for that show. I don’t have to climb over stacks of newspapers to navigate from my living room to my bedroom and I don’t save every single paper clip, pencil stub, and plastic bag (although I admit I’m tempted). Nevertheless, the other day Akili accused me of being “an organized hoarder.” I have a lot of stuff that I don’t need but can’t quite part with. I have to keep telling myself that giving away objects does not diminish the experiences associated with them. I am not giving away the memories, only a thing that I associate with the memories. I won’t forget the great night out in Switzerland just because I got rid of the empty bottle of wine we drank (I still have that bottle on my kitchen window sill).
This past fall, I decided I needed to downsize my stuff. So each week, for several months, I forced myself to fill my trash can with things that had no earthly further functional use and I made a run each week to Goodwill with a load of items that still had some life in them. I hate the idea of sending stuff to landfill. I am the queen of recycling. But some things are really all used up; such as broken fishing rods, an unidentifiable plastic object the size of a large dog labeled “save for Akili’s car” (with a piece of tape on it that says “Akili says throw this out now”), sneakers that the children wore to shreds back in the 1990s, a game of Chutes and Ladders that is missing half the playing pieces, an in-dash tape player that was removed from a car in 1987, broken video tapes of Elmer Fudd cartoons, a stained and falling apart copy of a cookbook about cooking for a vegetarian baby, my father’s Tennessee license plates (he left Tennessee over 20 years ago), etc.
Now that I’ve removed the first level of stuff from my life, the harder work remains. I need to reassess the things that I still like to look at, but truthfully don’t need for anything. I have always collected beautiful objects. I have saved a million things my children made while growing up. I have hung onto old clothes that I loved that have too many holes and stains to wear anymore with the thought that I might cut them up and make something out of the material one day. Sigh. For the time being, I’m letting myself off the hook; but one day, when I move out of this house, I’ll get rid of that Rastafarian puppet Akili made in fifth grade. I swear.