Monday, October 11, 2010

Slaying the packrat

I have a terrible time discarding "things" that matter.

There are shoeboxes filled with birthday, anniversary and holiday cards piled high on the top shelf of my closet. The file cabinet in our office contains one whole drawer filled with memorabilia from thirteen years of working in school districts.

I have a terrible time discarding any of these important things.

Oops! Let's be correct... I had a terrible time etc. etc. As of today, I am well on my way toward being cured of this affliction.

Credit Daughter #1. Terri casually mentioned not long ago that she and her sister would not hesitate to unceremoniously chuck the piles of papers and letters, greeting cards and employment records when they were in the throes of unloading my "stuff," either upon my entrance to an assisted living facility or the crematorium of a local funeral home. Why, I thought, should I leave the task to them? They will, after all, have their hands full with the houseful of knick-knacks, family hand-me-downs and other treasures which hold no value or sentimentality for them. Certainly not fair, then, to add reams of paper to that job.

So, today it began. First went the greeting cards. Boxes of them (read, of course, before discarding) were emptied into paper bags destined for the recycling dumpster. I'll admit to holding onto a few bearing little girl signatures, dating back to the babyhood of my girls, which I simply could not assign to the trash. I'll find another place for them and hope my daughters will consider keeping them.

Tonight, I attacked one file cabinet drawer. Throughout my career in school public information, I kept an annual file labeled "Personal." Into it, I placed employment contracts, notes from colleagues, annual evaluations and an occasional citation for one job or another having been done well. That makes thirteen files containing items meaning absolutely nothing to anyone but me. So, I callously visited each folder, removed its contents and began a new recycling basket, saving only a few photos and newspaper clippings the girls might decide have enough family value to preserve when...

I'm proud of myself. I'm sure my girls will share that pride, tempered with gratitude for having saved them the task. Tomorrow, more files to be discarded.

Then, when it gets cold and gray outdoors and I need a good winter project, I intend to tackle the thousands of photographs that are scattered in albums, boxes, drawers and just about anywhere a photo can hide. Hopefully, I will have a few years to complete the task of sorting, cataloging, even scanning and captioning the ones I choose to retain. Wish me luck.

The pack rat has been successfully captured and slain.