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PARTING IS SWEET SORROW
FOR UNABASHED PACK RAT

"What are you saving that for? You haven't used it in 10 years. Please throw it away."

These are harsh words spoken by my husband. Should I enter a treatment center for save-a-holics? I hang on to things too long. I still have my 14-year-old daughter's first tooth, first pair of shoes and every toy she has ever owned.

My basement is a stockpile of toys, games, books and play equipment. Nothing gets thrown out, except of course the damaged items.

I've got Easy-Bake Ovens and leftover packages of food dating back to 1995. Care for a petrified brownie? I have generations of Mr. Potato Heads, who I blame for making body piercing fashionable.

Old suitcases are stuffed with Barbie dolls and every conceivable outfit and accessory. Barbie is definitely the best dressed in our family. We deny her nothing, from fancy cars, to campers, to speed boats. Her boyfriend, Ken, even lived with us for a spell.

Interestingly enough, my husband never said, "Barbie must go." Why? Because of her voluptuous figure. And where did that originate from? Some jilted plastic surgeon is my guess.

Why do I save? Think of the unending possibilities. When grandchildren come to visit, I'll be able to supply them with age-appropriate toys and a playground for their imagination.

And when they start to get restless, I'll give them the box that the toy came in. Yes, I keep boxes. A discarded old refrigerator box has been transformed from a puppet stage to a doll house to a fort, depending upon gender usage, or the kid with the loudest mouth.

If you think the wall around China is impressive, think of what my collection of building blocks can do. I have enough Lincoln Logs and Legos to encircle the world. My chiropractic bills support this theory since years of bending over and picking them up has ruined my back.

Ages ago, my daughter stopped ordering Happy Meals for the prize, but I kept the miniature toys for future use. When an over-the-hill theme was needed, Fred Flintstone and Dino the dinosaur were the toppings on the cake. If it was a toddler's birthday, the "Rug Rats" collection or the latest action-packed superheroes dotted the frosting.

So, you see, there are reasons for my junk. And I did let my husband keep his "valuables," which aren't half as exciting as mine. He also is guilty of stockpiling: seven ladders, 15 extension cords, 31 screwdrivers and a closet full of light bulbs and batteries in every wattage and voltage known to man. I won't even mention the assortment of nails and pieces of wood that could rebuild any Third World country.

What interests me is that my husband has recently been accumulating a stash of heavy-duty lawn bags. Every time he goes shopping, he comes home with more bags. I'm thinking -- how many leaves can you have in the dead of winter? Is he forgetting that he just purchased them or is he scheming to dispose of my treasures?

It's confrontation time. He's got his stuff and I've got mine. Who's to say which is more important? So I'll tell him: "Before you do anything with those hefty bags, just remember this. I've kept the most precious thing in my life for 19 years. And if you haven't guessed it, it's you dear. Now can I keep my stuff?"

KAREN ADRAGNA WALSH lives in Hamburg with her husband and daughter and inspects every trash bag.