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Finding a time to clean

January 30, 2009
James P. Whipple, Chronicle staff

This year I promised myself that I was going to clean house and start to get rid of old pictures, books clothing and other things that I no longer use.

I was told once that if you haven't touched it or used it in the last five years get rid of it. I remember my grandmother's attic and her promise that she was going to clean it out and give away keepsakes to her kids and other family members. After her passing, it took five of us almost a week to go through the attic and divide the keepsakes that she had been trying to give away for the last 20 years of her life.

When the dust finely settled from the attic, we all agreed that when we got older, we would not have an attic full of things from decades past.

I helped work on cleaning that top floor in 1969. Four decades have past and, as I sit in my beautiful home, I can't help but notice how much it resembles grandmother's attic. I made the same promise last year and just looked at it all year. Where should I start.

The books - I have a million old hardcover books - or maybe some of the letters and cards I have received over the years. There is a drawer full of T-shirts that I have bought at different events. Or maybe I'll go through my old shoes; I wouldn't want people to think I collect them for a hobby. I got tired just looking at the mountain of stuff.

Today has been a wash since it has snowed, sleeted and rained all day. This would be a perfect day to start my project. I'll just go through all these old pictures. Let me look at them one last time.

And so I started through the first box. There were pictures of me in college and at the beach and camping. Out of one box full of pictures, I threw away six. I was off to a great start. The same thing happened when I started to look through the old books. The third book I picked up was the "Making of a President," 1960. I sat down and started to leaf through it. When I went through the clothing drawer, I could not make up my mind what to toss. By the end of the afternoon, I had less than half a trash bag full of things I was going to toss. Then I looked in the bag, and had second thoughts about tossing out what I had already tossed out.

I sat in my easy chair wondering what kind of illness the doctors would say was the cause of not being able to throw away things I never use or touch or hardly ever look at. Maybe I don't have the heart to throw away objects that remind me of times past. As I grow older, the memories grow sweeter.

I know what I'll do, I wait. And when I'm gone, some other relatives like my nieces can clean it all out and promise themselves that it won't happen to them.

 
 

 

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