It is spring: time to de-clutter. This is hard for me because when I do muster the energy to tackle the basement, I have to do so clandestinely because I have a 6-year-old who will not let me give or throw anything away. She still brings up the “Fish Mask Incident.” To this day I cannot tell you what the fish mask looked like, but apparently I threw it out and Caroline realized after-the-fact that one day the fish mask was in the trash bag, and the next day, the trash bag was gone. I told her a tale about the lucky little girl who had always wanted a fish mask and somehow magically acquired ours, but Caroline was unimpressed. The “FMI” still comes up, and I can’t handle it, so, I de-clutter alone, in the dark of night, like Jason Bourne.
Caroline is obviously too young to be featured on A & E’s Hoarders. She’s supposed to be collecting stuffed animals at her age. And mini Menchies spoons. And pine cones. And bits of cement and asphalt. Right? Her red winter coat is heavier on one side because of a pocket packed with rocks, dead leaves, and a plastic hippo head. She finds things all of the time, things she deems special and worthy-of-keeping, and I feel like that’s okay for right now.
We certainly spend enough time losing things. I misplace my keys daily. I still can’t find the cord to charge the camcorder. Just this past weekend, we lost an hour, the Magic Tree House Book #34, and Caroline’s tooth. The hour’s gone for good, but we found the book under a pile of yet-to-be-de-cluttered clutter, and Caroline’s tooth actually just finally fell out after dangling for days.
She’d recently lost—and I mean really lost—tooth #3 at school during PE class. She came home with an empty plastic tooth necklace, so we scripted a sincere note to the Tooth Fairy explaining the obvious absence. Next day Caroline got the goods from the Tooth Fairy, and, bonus, her PE teacher handed her the missing tooth. So she’d scored the cash and was able to keep her tooth. Because normal protocol had been disrupted, after losing tooth #4, Caroline drafted another heart-felt note to said Fairy, hoping again to keep both money and tooth. And the Fairy accommodated.
How will this end? Will our house teem with baby teeth, pink plastic spoons, and rock shavings? What if we ever need to sell this place? How readily available is Nate Berkus for home makeovers?
I joke, but I know how this will end. We hold onto things for our own reasons. I have kids ages 4 and 6, and I am just now gathering big items to consign, bulky items that have been taking up prime storage space: multiple strollers , a crib, a mattress, a booster seat, a pack-and-play.
Eventually, we agree to let things go.
My kids are growing; my house is shrinking. I take the occasional pilgrimage to IKEA for the bigger bed or some sort of Swedish contraption that will help me keep my keepsakes: the school papers, the photo albums, the crayoned rainbows. How can I toss this stuff? I see pregnant women browsing in the nursery section and think, you’ll be back here next for the bunk bed. It doesn’t take long. Lexi’s new quilt now matches her sister’s since they share a room. How soon until she’s coordinating with a college roommate?
It’s a lot to carry—this acute awareness of time, this need to remember, these attempts to capture everything before it disappears.
Caroline had been nervous about losing tooth #4. On the night just before she lost her tooth, she didn’t even eat her dinner. She was anxious and irritated that her sister and the friends we had over were so oblivious to her plight. She wished that somebody else would lose a tooth. Finally, our toddler friend, Quinn, went in for a hug and head-butted that stubborn tooth right out. Caroline called me into the bathroom; her smile was broad and beautiful, her mood had immediately lifted. She was light and giggly, herself again.
At the end of the evening, Lexi in red puffy coat and pigtails, scooter poised, was hoping to escort Quinn and his family home. Before we reeled her in, she had a chance to breathe in some night air and check out the stars. She yelled, “Look, guys, it’s Ryan’s Belt!”
She’d made this awesome discovery and was ready to ride like Paul Revere, to share the news with the neighbors.
We find and we lose. We lose and we find.
We work so hard trying to carry it all with us, trying to get it all down. How much lighter would we feel just being happy that we get it at all?
published on patch.com March 2012