Betrothed to Junk

Letting go is hard to do. Not the kind of letting go you do over an embittered break up or the figurative debris that needs to be rid from your head. Though clearing the contents of my mind is probably long overdue. I am talking about discarding junk. Worthless, useless, piles of clutter.

Here’s the thing, my garage is reaching maximum capacity. I’d like to think of it as a dumping ground for all my special mementos. Over the course of the last eight years, I have stuffed it full of every imaginable memory.

Keepsakes ranging from “Open House” signs, cracked coffee mugs, broken drum sets, and even, old buckets of paint used for our baby’s first bedroom. My daughter was born seven years ago, and yet, I can’t muster enough resolve to chuck the Buttercream BEHR paint. There is an odd sense of security knowing that this bucket is still nestled in the corner of my garage. I guess it reminds me of her birth. The reception of a new baby, a new life. And of course, all the maddening preparation that proceeded her arrival.

Then there is the artwork. I have faithfully saved every drawing my kids have ever created. I mean every single piece. From the complimentary kid menus they color at family friendly restaurants to crumpled up napkins with signature designs. Every last stinking scribble scrabble is accounted for and documented.

I don’t understand this compulsion to hold onto everything. The overwhelming desire to stow memories. Seems rather futile and unnecessary. Such a waste of space. But the urge persists.

Perhaps I’m afraid that if I discard something of value, I’ll regret it later. The image of a truck hauling away belongings I deem as treasure and others deem as trash is so permanent. Once the items leave my home, it’s irreversible. There is no going back. I’ll never be able to recover those recorded memories.

My reluctance doesn’t make this dilemma any easier. In fact, my strange attachment to junk only confuses me more, and in turn, causes me to procrastinate. As soon as I open the garage door my head starts spinning. I am bombarded with a thousand what if’s . . .

What if I need that size 4 black mini dress after all?

What if the kids discover I didn’t save their pinto-bean paper plate projects?

What if the hole in the inflatable Rudolph decoration can be patched?

Fortunately, the anxiety subsides when I close the door. Although the monumental chore of sorting through clutter looms over me, I choose to push it to the wayside. I convince myself there is always tomorrow.

Tomorrow I’ll let go of the junk. Just let it all go.

27 thoughts on “Betrothed to Junk

  1. I often did store things for years, then gave them away and really missed them a few months later, regretting to have given them away. But for some other things I’m very rational. If I didn’t need them in, let’s say, for a year, I give them away (I don’t throw them away, but give them to charity, friends or sell them).

    1. keepingitreal Post author

      Starting a pile for charitable items and creating a separate one for the “absolutely cannot live without” items, is a great idea! Maybe it will help me to not feel so conflicted.

  2. It IS hard to let go… Completely agree. You have reminded me of when I needed to ‘let go’ of my pre kid life. It took me ten years… As for children’s artwork: I have created a “gallery” wall for their art, ripped paintings and such and arranged it in a giant collage and gotten bins for each of my three kids and at the end of the year we go through it and save what they like the best. Not that my house is not FULL of clutter but I was very proud of my starts. : )

  3. I am a lot like you in that I find comfort in holding on to everything I’ve ever owned, but fortunately (or unfortunately? mostly fortunately) I have a husband who hates any sort of clutter and finds joy in getting rid of everything I let him. It’s always painful for me when he gathers up a pile of stuff and brings me over to inspect and give approval for it to be hauled away for donation. I always argue that I might need those two lamps that we haven’t even unpacked since I moved into his house 8 years ago or the ski rack for my old car that doesn’t fit on my new car that came with a ski rack (that was a tough one) BUT I can report that after the stuff is hauled away, I haven’t missed it. My point is that once you get over the pain of actually gathering it up to haul away and once it’s gone, you probably won’t think about it.

    Over the years, I’ve become really good at purging old clothes that don’t fit or I don’t need, and I usually haul away several boxes of clothes to the Boys and Girls Club donation center, and I always feel really good about it. Speaking of that, I started a pile for that reason over a week ago; I need to finish that up and haul it over to the center!

    On the subject of kids’ artwork, my kiddo is only 16 months old, and I started out keeping all the “art” he brings home from daycare, but even I, the sentimental mom who loves to keep stuff, now make a choice with each item because sometimes, frankly, it’s more the daycare teacher’s artwork than my little guy’s.

    I didn’t mean for this “comment’ to be so long! I enjoy reading your blog :)

    1. keepingitreal Post author

      Wait a minute, it’s like your in my head! My husband does the inspection thing too and waits for my approval. Can’t believe you have the same system too! I can picture you holding onto those two lamps now . . . refreshing to know that I’m not the only one who feels so passionate about junk. :)

  4. It’s SO HARD, isn’t it? I have yet to throw away a single piece of Tornado Art. How can someone do that without instantly feeling like a terrible person???

    1. keepingitreal Post author

      You feel terrible too? It’s awful, the mommy guilt never ceases. What’s worse is the prospect of our children discovering we threw their treasures away. Then we’re really in trouble!

  5. What a great post! It seems in every family there is someone who is “Betrothed to Junk.” In our house, that would be my husband. I am, of course, of the “when in doubt throw it out” mentality, but it is still hard to decide what to toss, especially when in comes to the kid stuff. Thanks for checking out Mostly Sane Mamas. Your “like” brought me here and you’ve got a great blog!

    1. keepingitreal Post author

      You’re right! There is always one person who wants to hold onto things FOREVER. Glad to hear that you’re the one bringing balance and order to your home. As for me, I’m still in progress.

  6. Ummm… I just thought I’d speak up for people from the opposite end of the spectrum. I hate clutter. Chuck, chuck, chuck… It’s a great feeling to free myself from the piles of mess (which I still have just like everyone else, only because I don’t have time to sort it). It makes me feel in control of my life.

    BUT sometimes I hurt my kids feelings so I’m learning to rotate the art on the fridge and keep a few of the best pieces. AND sometimes I throw out something I actually need next week or month, which is irritating, but not fatal. I could probably use a little bit more patience and sentimentality.

    1. keepingitreal Post author

      Oh, how I envy you for your ability to “chuck.” I need to get in the habit of throwing away things I absolutely don’t need. Like broken coffee makers. I hear it only takes 2-3 weeks for a habit to form. Guess I better roll up my sleeves this weekend and get busy.

  7. I can relate to your garage! My husband refuses to throw away anything so I just walk quickly through it and close the door. I have a bin with hanging files in it for each of my children. Each year is a different file where I place my favorite artwork, stories, papers, photos, etc of the year. So much easier than a scrapbook or saving everything!

    1. keepingitreal Post author

      Haven’t tried hanging files yet. That might actually work for us. But like you, I will need to sort through the piles of artwork and determine which ones are worth saving and which ones aren’t. Ouch, hurts just thinking about it!

  8. Living in an apartment, it’s trickier. No garage space, and the clutter gets out of control so quickly. I save quite a bit of the kids’ work, but have gotten better about letting things go, and yes, it does feel freeing to pitch a bag or two–or donate, whichever is more appropriate. I have a hard time getting rid of things given as gifts, even if I’ve never worn or used them, the little voice in my head is panicked that the gift giver will show up the very next day. :0

    1. keepingitreal Post author

      That little voice of yours is right. I would be in absolute panic mode if the “gift giver” showed up and I knowingly tossed out the respective present. This is why I often feel like a dog chasing it’s tail. Spinning in circles between the guilt I feel when I pitch stuff and the remorse I experience over an item that can’t be recovered. Definitely need to find a middle ground.

  9. OH! I have an idea (which I’m sure I stole from someone else). I also kept every piece of kid art. If it had a pencil mark it qualified as art! Recently I went through it all and took pictures — lots and lots of pictures. So now we still have the art AND the kids can scroll through it on the computer when they feel like it. Sorry that’s the extent of my brilliant ideas. : ) Good Luck!!

    1. keepingitreal Post author

      Brilliant idea you have there, filing memories electronically. It would save space and the kids could view their art at their own leisure. As for the “pencil mark qualifying as art,” I hear your pain. Feel like such a sucker sometimes.

  10. It’s not exactly the same thing as having the original, but there is a program that I saw once that scans all of your kids artwork and then puts them into tinier files that are then printed out onto a larger canvas for hanging. It was featured on HGTV, but I can’t remember the episode. I thought the idea was super cute…though…not sure just HOW many artworks you have saved ;)

    1. keepingitreal Post author

      What an ingenious program! I’m afraid I have several tubs full of artwork. I started collecting her scraps of art when she was two and she is now seven. Not the best system but it seems to work for now. :)


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