I find that I’m having trouble getting back into the swing
of things this morning. Last week sort of threw me off schedule, and this week
promises to be no better since Mama is here and the kids are out of
school.  The weather is just like
summer as well so I don’t want to be in the classroom or sitting at my desk
while it’s light outside.

Plus, I’m trying to be extra quiet so I don’t wake Isaac who,
apparently, got up sometime after 3:45 this morning, turned on all the lights
and decided to sleep in the big armchair not even eight feet from my desk.  So much for uninhibited work time.

Part of our unexpected schedule yesterday was to begin
remodeling the hobby house, a small one-room house in our back yard that we’ve
recently only used for storage.  We
tore the inside out and put up new walls where there had been water
damage.  Rob installed new flooring
and a ceiling.  All that’s left is
the finish work and painting.
That, and I have to find a home for all the Rubbermaid totes filled with
toys my children have either outgrown or are not interested in.  Clutter bugs me.  I find myself avoiding Harper Lee and
Isaac’s rooms simply because the amount of stuff piled everywhere and without a
home maddens me.  It is my version
of hell. 

Clutter is something that I have to fight.  I am a natural packrat if left
unchecked.  I think it is
genetic.  My grandmother was a
notorious and completely unapologetic packrat, and my mother has developed into
one over the last several years.  I
also have tendencies toward keeping things “just in case” and I find myself
sentimentally attached to even the silliest things, like a hand-held sticky
label maker that belonged to my grandmother.  She kept it in the top right-hand drawer of her desk for as
long as I can remember, and when she died, I took it and kept it.  I don’t even think they make the strips
of adhesive plastic that used to feed through the middle, and I can’t imagine
that I’ll ever use it, but I keep it.
I wouldn’t dream of throwing it away.

You can see how that type of thing might add up over
time.  I work pretty hard to
maintain control over my collecting habits.  I would never deliberately start collecting something just
because most collections happen before you even realize what’s going on, so why
add to it on purpose?  Somehow I
have accumulated a lot of garden and kitchenware.  I don’t think I consciously set out to do this or even asked
for a lot of it, yet here it is, spilling out from my cabinets every time I
open one.  Rob would say that he is
the sane one, the one who does not collect silly, sentimental things, but I can
open at least five drawers in this house right now that are full of nothing but
screws and bolts and pieces of hardware that go to machinery we don’t even own
anymore.  Oh, and lots of keys that
belong to unidentified locks.
There’s also a galvanized tub full to the brim of bicycle tubes in the

The kid stuff, however, is the real problem.  I think I had a lot of toys as a kid; I
never felt deprived in any way, yet my toy collection compares in no way to
that of my two children.  It is
obscene.  I’m thinking of renting a
U-Haul and taking 1/3 to each of the grandparents and asking them to house
it.  Since 90% of it came from
them, this seems fair to me.  Maybe
if they had to find a place to put it and pick up all the pieces and move it
from place to place even though it had been forgotten (because of the onslaught
of all the other stuff), they might think twice before bringing gifts every
time we see them.  This sounds
terribly ungrateful, but stuff is so unimportant in the grand scheme of things.
 I don’t want my kids to think they
need to “get” something every other day, and I want them to appreciate what
they do have, which is difficult when you’re not even sure what that is.

For one thing, grandparent gifts often overshadow gifts from
Santa and the Easter Bunny, which is a pretty big letdown for us.  I rarely buy my own kids anything
because it seems pointless and wasteful, and while it’s nice to have such sweet
gifts, sometimes it kills my fun.
The other reason I say stuff is unimportant is that I grew up with two
sets of wonderful grandparents.
One of the sets rarely bought gifts, and when they did, the gifts were
modest, but I spent nearly every day with them, they took me everywhere they
went, they taught me things, they played with me, and they spent time with
me.  The other set bought beautiful
clothes and cool toys and wrapped them in neat packages with pretty bows.  They always came to my birthday
parties, and they bought me treats when I asked.  However, I can count on one hand the number of times I spent
the night with them, and I rarely went anywhere with them.  Of the two, the first knew me and
shaped me, and things had nothing to do with it.

I guess I’ll box up some of the toys and deliver them to
other deserving people.  This
cleaning out is not easy for me, and I really don’t enjoy getting rid of
stuff.  My inner packrat fights me
all the way, but I have to make room for all the stuff that is sure to follow
in the next few years, and our house, garage, barn and hobby house are only so
big.  Besides, maybe I’ll turn the
hobby house into a writer’s studio.
Now that we’ve cleaned all the junk out, it’s a pretty nice place, and I
wouldn’t have to worry about waking Isaac as I work in the early morning.

For now, I think I’ll just ask the grandparents to put all
the money they spend on knick-knacks and odd-and-ends in a college fund; we
could probably afford out-of-state, Ivy League schools based solely on
that.  I also think that gifts of
experience are far better than gifts of things.  Toys end up in a box on a shelf; memories stay in your heart
forever.  Trust me; I know.