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