Friday, November 14, 2008


My friends, if history has taught me anything about myself, it’s that I am a chronic “pack rat.” (Other lessons history has taught me about myself: 1. I can eat an entire box of Famous Amos Chocolate Chip & Pecan Cookies and feel fine, 2. Though I love them, I can only listen to ½ of a They Might Be Giants CD in one sitting, and 3. Diff’rent Strokes is not 10% as entertaining as I thought it was as a pre-teen.)

The inability to throw things away has its benefits, to be sure. For example, do you currently own a 1988 INXS concert t-shirt? Hmm, interesting. I DO! Do you, as we speak, have in your possession an original VHS copy of the classic 1983 film noir, Mr. Mom? Well, well, well…I DO! Or do you, my friend, have a library of cassette tapes that includes Tina Turner’s Private Dancer? Me neither – what do I look like, some kind of weenus?

Notes passed in high school, elementary school report cards, movie ticket stubs, 63-page college research project with received an A (thank you very much), photo directories of past wards I was in, reference books on subjects from herbal remedies to unsolved mysteries to languages I’ll never learn, pieces of wood that could be used to build something someday, video cameras that might just need to be thrown into the wall (one more time) and they’ll work again…the list goes on.

And then, to add fuel to the fire, I have six kids. Adorable drawings, cute poems, charming notes that tell me how much they love me, award ribbons, play bills, rare and cherished books that have fallen apart…how am I supposed to throw dreams and ambitions away? Can you, you unfeeling, soulless, senseless parent? I defy you!

But then, the winds of change have come along, dear ones. And I am a new man.

I can’t tell you exactly what happened, but I have been overcome with a feeling of letting go. I am kicking off the shackles and bringing out the hobo in me. When they say, “Papa was a rolling stone,” I totally get it now. I’m tossing clutter as if my life depended on it.

“Get rid of it.” That’s my new mantra.

Clothes I don’t wear, books I’m not going to read, children’s toys I’m tired of picking up, research I can reprint, knick-knacks that have lost their luster, heirlooms that I can’t remember their significance. “Get rid of it.”

I’m going to make that slogan into a sign to hang it in our living room. You know, like the “Family: Where Your Story Begins” signs, or the “All Because Two People Had to Get Married.” And then, when I’ve made that beautiful, hand-crafted sign in mahogany wood with my own sweat and tears, I’m going to … throw it away! Because that’s what I do now.

I recently bought a shredder, initially to protect our family from identity theft by destroying sensitive information like credit card applications, bank account statements, jury duty notifications, letters from the IRS, etc. But now, that shredder is a monkey on my back. I have to shred. Unflattering photos, embarrassing journal entries, Katie’s wedding dress. If we ain’t usin’ it folks, it’s gone.

Oh, the joy that comes from pitching clutter. In fact, if it’s important – family memorabilia like personal histories, journals, letters, photos, home movies, whatever—it will either be in our computer or get chucked. Ideally, anything worth keeping is digitized. My dream is that one day our house will be on fire, and I walk in, brave and determined, and grab our computer – the only thing we need – and walk out. And that’s it.

Wait, wait, wait. I walk in, grab the computer and the shredder, and that’s it.

WAIT, wait, wait. I walk in – grab the computer and the shredder, and my Tina Turner cassette tape. And THEN, that’s it.

THAT’S what I’m talkin’ ‘bout, Willis.