Pare down, pass along

The boys and I journeyed back and forth to a neighbor’s yard sale (you don’t call them garage sales around here, as I was unequivocally told by the seven-year-old running the lemonade stand) four or five times Friday. We all love treasures, but we soon realized we were under surveillance as we poked through the tables and boxes and plastic crates of toys. The boy of the house was having a terribly hard time letting his things go. Baby toys, baby bikes, broken Matchbox fire trucks, bags of foam he’d worked at with a plastic hacksaw. His mom bagged our treasures quick as we tried multiple times to go. In the end he followed us halfway home, calling “Let me see what you got there!”

What we had there, besides our paid-for-junk, was three stolen pieces from a Dinosaur Train set. I guess G had slipped them in while I was conspiring with our neighbor to return for the items her son decided she couldn’t sell. We returned to the scene of the crime, where G said he was sorry and our neighbor said it takes a big man to admit what he’d done. Little did she know that G was motivated to perform his act of contrition by a package that arrived for him in the mail. Packages trump all.

Seeing how hard it was for D (the neighbor boy) to give up his things, even his baby things, the boys and I got into a discussion about Too Many Toys. Actually, the conversation was more about having a garage sale. They were begging me to put one together, to which I responded—But can you actually give up any of your toys? —Yes, yes, we can! they practically shouted in unison.

Recognizing a rare window of opportunity (I am always one for paring down and passing along or throwing out the unessential and unused), I said, “Let’s start with your guys then” (the guys live in a large lower drawer of the lovely hutch we inherited from John’s mom and converted into a book shelf/toy hut/art supply cabinet). Guys include the likes of superheroes, Happy Meal toys, borrowed 3D movie glasses, special rocks, Playmobil pieces, half-transformed Transformers, plastic hourglass timers and other assorted treasures from the dentist’s office, speech therapist, sunday school teacher, et cetera. The two of them sat with me for over an hour and went through every single item in that drawer, one at a time. The vote had to be unanimous, and I reserved the right to veto certain “sell it” choices, being the only person with any kind of a long view (though my long view is notoriously short).

On Saturday, I made J’s favorite Cook ‘n Serve chocolate pudding as an incentive to continue our cleanout quest. Worked. We started with G’s truck stash then moved into the playroom and finally ended up back up in their bedroom going through costumes. Our downstairs queen sized bed is now completely covered with Stuff. Whatever the used kids’ shop (the boys’ name for our local resale shops) won’t take I’m taking over to the other used kids’ shop. No, they don’t resell used kids.

This isn’t the first reduction project I’ve tackled this week. Frankly, it’s all of a piece. Monday I tossed our dish rack, sick of the mildew I couldn’t find a way to scrub out of the too-deep, ridged, clear plastic drain mat. Yeck. I drastically pared down Jonah’s artwork in our eating area; it felt too busy, too much. I am trying to ignore the peeling paint I’d forgotten lay behind those varied pieces. Yesterday John trimmed the tree limbs weakened by recent storms and hanging low over our driveway so that every time we passed through they scraped the top of our car.

Even my body tells me I’m in need of a certain decontamination. Every few years my guts just seize up, a kind of intestinal charlie horse. Not pretty. The only way to get my colon from either spasming out or remaining in lockdown, I must limit my food intake to almost completely soluble fiber for a few days, before slowly adding in everything I eliminated. I must also, so very sadly, quit coffee, dairy, beer, wine, and other assorted mixed cocktails (read Don Julio margaritas). I guess my month-long birthday/anniversary celebration is officially over.

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