Learning to curate.

I'm not a hoarder. I don't keep sewing machines in my bathtub or dead kittens in the ceiling tiles of my crumbling, odorous manse. I like my kitchen relatively clean and my floors 72% clear of random objects and debris. I never stack phone books in doorways.

But what I guess I should say is that, if we're going by the reality TV definition, I'm not a hoarder... yet. Parenthood is threatening to push me over the edge.
Because I am a saver.

While you can easily throw something away without giving it a second thought, I will develop an emotional attachment to it so strong and passionate it will knock your socks off. The socks you threw away and I pulled out of the trashcan.

Those gold coins are actually Cheerios.
In our little duplex, there are drawers filled with movie stubs and Christmas cards. Ribbons from gifts I've long since forgotten about and instruction booklets from toasters that spontaneously combusted years ago. The door of my car is stuffed with tourism pamphlets from the welcome centers of at least 17 states.

And I could tell you, piece by crumpled piece, the emotional significance of every expired coupon and Altoid tin full of earring backs. Matt is exceedingly patient, but I know he dreams of a house-wide purge. Sometimes he mumbles about burning old magazines in his sleep.

So when Emilia began bringing home art projects from daycare at the ripe old age of 10 months, any sense of doubt surrounding the authenticity of their production was trumped by an irrepressible need to save.



Save because if your child is your heart with arms and legs, then these are art projects created by your heart’s arms and how could you ever throw something like that away?

Within just a few months, our refrigerator had become a shrine to cotton-ball snowmen and watercolor turkeys. Emilia’s abstract art (which was more likely created lovingly by her teachers while she ate crayons and looked on) was piling up on the kitchen counter.

Then, one day, as I moved her paper plate maraca out of the way to reach the coffee maker, I felt myself crossing the threshold – the hoarding threshold where you start living around things. When you have to crawl over a pile of rotting pumpkins to reach the bathroom. Or whatever.

I’m still not ready to start throwing Emilia’s art away. But now it’s going in a box. She has an entire childhood ahead of her, and if I don’t develop a system, pretty soon we’ll be living in one giant macaroni necklace. Because, while it’s important to save some things, the memory isn’t in that clump of Easter grass glued to a piece of construction paper.

It’s in my head. And in my heart. And sometimes – just to keep things livable – in the trashcan.


  1. Some day Emilia will find this box of her art work and think, "Gawd, Mom, why would you ever save such junk?!"

    ...Until the day she takes a college art class and illustrates a life-sized chalk drawing of her freshman year roommate (secretly), of which you of course again save. And again, years later, she'll find said drawing and laugh hysterically and thank you for saving such a funny memory.*

    You're a good mom.

    * This may or may not have had happened to me.

  2. I always wondered why my Mom kept every.single.piece.of.schoolwork in these huge boxes. Now I know. I can't seem to part with Lucy's daycare art projects, so have begun filing them in binders. Perhaps a big box would be easier, but something about those "protective" slip covers is extremely comforting :)

  3. Um, minor suggestion here - occasionally stick one of them in an envelope and send it to Grandma. Or an aunt. Or an uncle. Or her godmother. They'll be delighted with a present from Emilia and when it's too faded/shabby/dusty/crumbled/disintegrated to look like its original self, they'll be able to throw it away without a broken heart. You can get away with sending something to Grandma once a month even. Other relatives less often. And if you run out of relatives and the daycare projects are particularly prolific, you can always randomly choose people out of the phonebook.


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