In those boxes under the stairs…

Coming Home: Some things are worth saving

OK, please tell me everyone has it — that space under the stairs or in the attic or the corner of your bedroom piled up to the ceiling where you put all the things.

All the things you want to save but don’t know what to do with, like the junk drawer every Midwesterner tries and fails to clean out every three years.

Please tell me you know what I mean so I don’t feel alone in the stacks of boxes I’m wading through here to make room for a plumbing project under those stairs.

Because I usually blame my husband for all the clutter, but four hours and 10 tubs full of less-practical things later, I’m admitting I’m guilty of the sentimental version of his shortcoming. And apparently it comes with baggage.

Because does the 35-year-old version of me need the graphic design projects I completed my junior year of college? Or a psychology textbook? Or a stack of blurry and misfired shots from my high school camera or this keychain that probably meant something to me but now I can’t remember what?

At some point in my life I must have thought so. But last weekend, in the name of time and an attempt to declutter my life to make room for the two new little lives that exist in our house now, I tossed them. I tossed them because, while it all served as a reminder of the things I used to do, it was no longer what I needed to remind me of who I used to be.

Some things aren’t worth saving, I decided. But it didn’t take much more digging to find the things that were. A box of random photos I hadn’t seen in years, photos that spanned decades, randomly tossed in a box and buried under things to deal with another day.


Evidence of Sisterly Love and overly festive jammies


A reminder of my fashion forward-ness


That time we puffy painted everything…and babysat the neighbor’s goat over Christmas break


A picture of me that could be a picture of Rosie (with brown eyes)


Halloween with the little sister a million years ago

A photo of a 1-year-old me tucked under my grandma’s arm on her old brown couch, both of us worn out and sleeping in her little farmhouse that I can still smell if I close my eyes.


An image of my little sister, 6 years old, standing outside with a Band-Aid and a tear on her face. She always had a Band-Aid and a little tear.


A rare photo of my mom and all of her young daughters in our kitchen. Dad sleeping against the piano while we opened presents at Christmas.

Me, 16 with bad hair and a bad sweater, sitting next to my boyfriend in a wrestling T-shirt.

And then piles of carefully folded letters and notes we wrote to each other while we were falling in love with no real grasp on the future or that it might look like a house on the ranch with our babies and a space under the stairs stacked with books and DVDs, paint cans, a witch hat, yearbooks, sports buttons, trophies, a salamander and memories worth digging out sometimes to remind us where it began.


Which, it turns out, helps in the whole moving forward thing. These things are worth saving.

Distracting things.

If you need me, I’ll be under the steps, trying again.


Oh, love can come a long way…

5 thoughts on “In those boxes under the stairs…

  1. I enjoyed reading this. I think all of us can relate to the junk drawer and boxes of this that HAD to be an effort to clean out my garage this summer, I started cleaning out tubs of old memories. I was in the mood to toss but enjoyed looking at the things I saved before they were tossed…one of my workbooks from first grade where I was writing cursive. I was amazed at how good it was, especially since some told me they don’t even teach cursive until 3rd grade now! Out went my high school year books, etc. Why leave all these things for my son to have to deal with upon my demise! Unfortunately I wasn’t able to finish and the momentum was lost, hopefully to get it back soon!

  2. Attending speech at fine arts, she told us to go through our stuff that includes pictures to look at each of them and if our children wouldn’t want them and we don’t need them anymore get rid of them We did and we have mostly empty shelves in our storage room. I went through the pictures and put them in piles of each one of my siblings and passed them on to them to share with their family’s. I am down to pictures I can handle. Of course I am 76 so possibly had more printed pictures then you younger people be cause they are put on disks. I also have them now with grandchildren.

  3. I can so relate. I have totes that I’m meaning to go through. I have 4 children and they each have a tote. I tell them to take it but I don’t think they like their drawings, report cards. And then there are my totes filled with treasures. Yikes, I better get busy.

  4. I still have my horrible poetry from high school. At one time I fancied my self an artist and musician. It wasn’t that great when I was 18. It’s probably embarrassing as hell now!
    There are days when I have the will and motivation to toss things out. Like left over paint and project junk. When I’m in that mood I go with it because I know it will only last a few hours and then I’ll be back to stacking my boxes!

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