Zionsville Times Sentinel

October 11, 2012

To keep or not to keep?

By Tess Worrell/Times Sentinel columnist

— “You’re not throwing that away, are you?” sobbed my daughter.

The object of her concern? A receipt. Seriously? When asked how she could possibly become so distraught over a miniscule piece of paper, she responded, “That’s the receipt for buying my bear. It’s a special memory.” Oh, Lord.

People are either savers or pitchers. I’m a devout pitcher. If I haven’t worn it, used it, or loaned it in the last year, the item goes to Goodwill for others to enjoy. I’m surrounded, however, by savers — people who manage to cram as much stuff within the walls of our home as possible “just in case.”

For some, they save because their love language speaks in mementoes. Every card, stuffed animal and shirt has a memory attached which must be preserved. Other savers are convinced that any item they toss will be desperately needed within three days and choose to avert disaster by saving everything. Of course, under the piles of stuff packing our garage, we can never find said item when needed and end up going to Lowe’s to purchase another anyway — but that’s beside the point. So, how to pitchers and savers coexist?

Store. Storage containers become both parties’ favorite device. They give pitchers the impression that stuff will be used and savers the ability to find their precious items when needed. The best gift I may have ever given my saver-husband was to organize his collection of parts in the garage. I purchased plastic sets of drawers and tubs of various sizes. All electrical implements went into one set of drawers/cords in top drawer, small items such as fuses and tape in another, larger tools for working on electrical jobs in the bottom. Ditto for plumbing related implements. Tubs of differing size organized bolts, nails, sockets and wire. Instead of claustrophobia inducing piles, items were organized. Added benefit — fewer trips to Lowes when a job needs completion.

Rotation. Eight children times one drawing per day equals more artwork than my refrigerator can possibly hold. Yet, pitch the eighth lovingly drawn horse daughter has produced this week? Not on your life. How does a parent treasure child’s creations without drowning in paper? Rotation. Each child gets a clip on the fridge. Child can add drawings to their clip until they overpower the magnet and clip starts to slide. Then, child must choose which drawings to keep on fridge and which to move to their own cardboard portfolio. Once portfolio is full, child must choose which drawings to pitch. Parent stays out of the fray.

This system features a number of benefits. First child remains in control of which of his creations is currently featured and which are bumped heading off years of future counseling over the perceived rejection of his art by parents. Clips allow all pictures currently on display to be seen while rotation keeps the refrigerator ever changing and interesting. Finally, by the time the portfolio purge takes place, even child’s attachment to each and every picture has waned a bit making for fewer tears.

Rotation works with clothes, toys and books. Ever essential tubs can store the excess of each category while children enjoy a few items at a time. When time to rotate — parent isn’t getting rid of anything; items simply go into the tub. This assurance combined with the excitement over “new” items allows savers to be more cooperative and pitchers to avoid overfilled closets and toy boxes.

Purge. At some point, space for tubs fills. Savers must come to terms with the truth, space is limited; families can’t save everything. There are varying strategies. A close friend advocates sending children out for a fun day with dad while she raids the toy chests and closets. She swears that, if one uses black trash bags which hide contents and strategically chooses little used items, the children don’t even notice. I go for more of a group effort.

Twice a year, I announce that all drawers must close and all toy tub lids must fit. How that happens is up to the owners. Though there is wailing and gnashing of teeth, allowing savers to control which items go creates more cooperation. Plus, my pitcher nature gets to fully express itself in seeing all the unused portions of our life go to worthy causes.

Where does all this leave the Build-a-Bear receipt? Daughter can keep it if she has room in her mementoes tub. Sobs averted. Mom’s counter decluttered. Savers and pitchers coexist.

Tess Worrell is the mother of eight and teaches parenting and marriage. Email her at tess@yourfamilymatterstous.com.