Spring cleaning

By Debbie Carini

I threw my kids in the garbage last week. Oh, my gosh…so dramatic!

But it wasn’t really them. It was the accumulation of 18 years (times two) of school and toddler portrait package photos. All those extra 11”x14,” 8”x10,” 5”x7” and wallet-sized prints. Who has enough relatives with whom to share these missing-teeth, hair-over-curled, pop-eyed, tear-streaked-cheek portraits?

And so, I commenced tossing.

It all started because of spring cleaning, a tradition that developed from an era when people spent months holed up in their homes, warmed by fires. Then, once spring arrived, they opened their windows and freed themselves of dust and dirt.

In modern times, we are fortunate to have Swiffer products to handle the grime. But, with the build-up of papers, expired foods, unfiled family photos (pre-digital era) and more, there’s no better exorcism than a good old-fashioned spring scrub and toss.

The most interesting thing I’ve noticed is that when we’re faced with an overwhelming mess—be it the national budget or that closet in the house that you can’t open because everything falls out on you—we tend to blame others.

I told my mom about my household tidying efforts and she related that she was going through her food closets. The conversation was living proof of genetics.

My mom: “I have three bottles of peppercorns!”

She also had random bottles of olive oil, some dating to the Roman Empire. She had a lot of questions about the viability of several products, “Do you think I can eat this?” she asked of several items. I told her, if there isn’t a website listed somewhere on the label, it’s probably from the early 1990s and to throw it away!

And then, naturally, she started to lay blame on others.

“Well, your daughter told me I should buy [insert almost any strange food item in her closet here].”

And I am just as guilty. My clothes closets are a panoply of sizes and styles, but I blame others for the fact that they are so over-crowded, I can’t press another hanger into service. For example, as I tried to explain to my husband why I couldn’t throw out a shirt:

“My sister gave that to me, and I know it’s a size 6 and I’ll probably never be that size again (because I was only ever that size once in my life—when I was 12), but maybe I’ll lose weight and be able to fit in it! My sister always buys nice designer clothes!”

Last month, however, we painted our family room and that forced me to deal with a lot of collectibles, CDs, cassettes, photo albums and several large envelopes filled with photo packages of my children. In one photo, my son’s tears are visible only in the 11”x14” print.

As cute as they were in their matching outfits, I couldn’t see what I would do with all those extra photos, so I tossed them. It didn’t hit me how horrible that was until I brought a bag of trash out to the can and tossed it on top of my toddlers smiling up at me in their matching spring outfits.

There’s nowhere to lay the blame—other than my own enthusiasm when I ordered the extra deluxe photo packages because I thought somehow everyone would be interested in seeing my children posed on a carpeted platform, looking warily into the camera (and, also at me waving my arms and yelling, “smile, smile!”).

As Mother’s Day approaches I must live with this reality: I threw my kids in the garbage. But, gosh, they sure looked cute.

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