Back when the boys were younger, spring cleaning happened in all four seasons.
Rather, it was attempted in all four seasons. As a young family we were constantly bringing stuff (and more stuff) into the house, whether we purchased it or it was given as gifts or hand-me-downs. The struggle for extra space was real, all the time.
Coming from a long line of packrats and being a mostly-recovered one myself (long story) it shouldn’t have surprised me when my older son D was traumatized at the mere suggestion of getting rid of, well, anything. It was his opinion that we should keep everything, because we might need it someday. This didn’t just cover his own belongings, by the way. He felt the same way about family items, even if we had outgrown them or they were no longer in working order.
When he was five years old, I ran out of patience with his insistence that the broken television I needed to throw away was still a valuable commodity. It eventually occurred to me that the “Take a picture; it’ll last longer” philosophy might be a great strategy for my Junior Packrat, who had recently received a Fisher Price camera that used real film.
Indeed it was: he took pictures of the television and then deemed it fine to release from our possession. I also have, thanks to our son, pictures of our old charcoal grill, a microwave, and other household items, catalogued in with our Kodak Lab-developed family memories along with photos of birthday parties, summer days running through the sprinkler, and first days of school.
These days, the kids are grown up and the purging of unneeded or broken items isn’t as much of a struggle: Jim and I just head for the donation pile or the trash can when we find something that needs to go. Every now and then there’s a snag: while I can typically overcome my genetic Packrat urges with help from the recent Konmari craze (Does this spark joy? No? Great: throwing it away!), I have a weakness for furniture, specifically when it’s a piece we have created, or something we’ve had for years.
Exhibit A: the table that Jim built from reclaimed wood for our screened-in porch. After he assembled the table, he and I covered the top with Mexican tile.
The table spent a bunch of good years next to the two Adirondack chairs on the back porch, sheltered from the elements and only needing an occasional wipedown to continue looking good. Each time I looked at it I remembered how we picked out each tile individually and how much we enjoyed putting it all together to create the final product. It made me smile. It was a conversation piece when we entertained in the backyard, and I loved telling its story.
Eighteen months ago we got new siding for the house and, unfortunately, the screened-in porch had to be sacrificed. It was built at the same time as the house, and a 45-year-old screened-in porch just doesn’t look very good with brand new siding. What was lost along with the screened-in porch was the shelter for that Mexican tile table, and even though it lived in the shed during the winter months, it quickly deteriorated from rainy summer nights on the newly topless patio.
Two weekends ago Jim and I were doing our spring cleaning routine for the backyard, and when he pulled the table out of the shed he said that he thought it was time to get rid of it. Heartbreaker.
One look at it told me he was right and the decision was reinforced when, as he lifted the table over his head to carry it over to the garbage bins, the tiles slid off like hot butter on a dinner roll. I winced.
As soon as we finished our chores and got cleaned up I rushed to grab my laptop because I thought I had taken pictures of the table at some point. Indeed I did, and the relief I felt from having a picture that will last longer than that table ever would have makes me feel a tiny bit better about moving on and perhaps even embracing the changes that are inevitable in life. Just a tiny bit.