Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Boxes and boxes

It recently became apparent to me that I should do something about the crates and crates of baby clothes stacked in our basement.

Not just crates. Labelled crates. By age. And gender. "Boy, 3-6 months". "Girl, 18 months". Etc.

I am not a tidy person. My own closet is bulging. My purse is a mess. My dresser top is cluttered. The fact that I made the time to wash, sort, fold, label and lovingly seal away these tiny treasures for "someday" is a testament to the fact that having a third child was very much THE PLAN. Not just a plan, a certainty.

My kids are now 4 1/2 and 3. They are blasting through their clothes, and almost monthly, I find myself removing teetering stacks from each of their rooms and transferring them down to the basement, to the holding area, where I habitually store them for future use.

Nine months of chemo, and a still-uncertain prognosis later, I am starting to realize that there probably won't be a "future use", at least not in this household. That realization, combined with our new commitment to de-cluttering and simplifying, makes that wall of plastic labelled crates start to feel less like a happy hopeful place and more like a burden. A bit of a glum reminder.

So recently, probably about 15 months after Neil was ready to do it, I began to disassemble the wall. One bag for goodwill, one bag for my sister's daughter, one bag for consignment, one bag for my pregnant cousin (boy? girl? not knowing makes this particular pile difficult). Seems like a no-brainer, I know. And after all, it's JUST CLOTHES, albeit, in many cases, really nice clothes. But I never guessed that the mere act of unfolding a simple cotton onesie, once gingerly snapped around chubby legs, now carefully folded and tucked away, could cause such rapid breathing and consternation on my part. She wore this jumper when she visited Santa! These socks match that top, and he wore them on the dock that first summer. Every single item conjures a visceral memory for me.

I guess I didn't realize I'D feel trapped by such sentimentality. That's the stuff of films on the Hallmark Channel.

But it's not just clothes, is it. It's letting go of a dream, a plan, a certainty, that has been altered without my consent. All that on top of the obvious: That my kids are getting older, and they'll never be small again. And so the entire task has become a burden, an unfinished project that Neil is too kind to nudge me into finishing.*

Anyway, I do need to get around to finishing this task. But not today. It's too sunny outside, and who wants to spend a lovely day in the basement with all THAT.

*(I wish the same could be said for his "nudging me" to clean out my closet! Ji-zuz! Ol' ball and chain...Hey, thanks for coming everyone, I'll be here all week.)


  1. You have other boxes to fill and empty. Leave those that give you too much sadness right now for another time.

  2. Is it time for another clothing swap? We could have it at Mo's house since it's practically empty...plenty of room to spread things out :)

  3. Shel, this sentimentality is just reflective of your love of your children, and of being a mother, and of your family and your love for large and growing families...makes total sense to me. I totally get jumping in on this because the boxes have become a burden, but if it feels burdensome to go through them, I'd say wait. you have plenty on your plate right now--when you're recovered entirely, with no cyberknife and no chest tube, it'll feel differently.

  4. Shelly -
    I completely feel your pain on this. When we left Hawaii we gave Joseph's infant car seat to a neighbor, gave the swing, bouncy seat, baby bathtub, and tons of his clothes to the Navy Marine Corps Relief Society Thrift Store on base. It was incredibly hard for me. I didn't want to do it and still miss those things. I think if we hadn't been moving I wouldn't have done it then. Daniel had no such issues with it. Keep the towers in the basement, they're not hurting anyone. I haven't gotten rid of anything else since we got here unless it was so worn out that it would be unusable for another child. What will happen when we move again? We'll cross that bridge when we get to it.