The Reduce, Reuse, Recyle Truce

Grandma, Cap’n Firepants’ mother, tried to give us a box the other day with a dead gecko inside.  She tried to justify its value by bringing up that her mother had lived in the country and – I interrupted her.  “We are not bringing home a dead gecko in a box,” I said.  “We’ve got plenty of them in the backyard and we don’t need anything to remember them by.”

Just to keep things fair, here, let me tell you that my side of the family has its quirks, too.  I don’t have problems throwing things away; I just have problems throwing them away right away.  I tend to collect, then purge.

When I was a kid, a few times a year, my mother would get fed up with the Wipe-Out obstacle course that my room had become and would threaten to throw everything away that was on the floor if I didn’t clean it up within some minuscule time-frame that she sprang on me at the last minute.

Sometimes, she just came in and threw it away without any warning.  I lost a few precious objects that way, but I never got any better.

So, based on our family history, our daughter is cursed.  It was no surprise to me when I opened a drawer one day and an avalanche of Dove wrappers cascaded to the floor.

Apparently, Dimples was experimenting with how many pieces of decorated aluminum foil her drawer could hold. (source:

“What are you keeping all of these for?” I asked.

She shrugged.  “I just don’t think they should be thrown away.”

“But, what are you going to do with them?”

“Keep them in that drawer.”

“Kid, they’re already escaping from that drawer.  I think you need a new plan.”

I finally convinced her to throw them away.

She is much better than I was about keeping her room fairly straightened up, but, with her genes, it is inevitable that objects slowly begin to accumulate, so at least twice a year we have to do a purge.

When she was a toddler, I would do The Purge when she was out of the house.  As she got older, I started having her participate in The Purge.  Mindful of my mother’s random trash tirades, I wanted Dimples to feel like she had a say in what got to stay and what had to go.

In Dimples’ opinion, however, nothing has to go.  To her, the Purges are joyful discoveries of long forgotten clothes and toys that must now be given more attention.  Never mind that the clothes no longer fit and the toys no longer entertain.  They CANNOT be thrown away.

I’m firm, but reasonable – making compromises and deals, justifying and rationalizing why things needed to be tossed or given away.  I describe happy little children in shelters and hospitals who would be ecstatic to play with her gently used Lite Brite or wear her little pink tutu that barely fits on her wrist now.  And we  finally end up with a couple of bags of things that are permitted to leave her room.  But, it is exhausting.

One of my friends recommended that I just do what I used to do – clean it out when she wasn’t at home, and she would never know the difference.  But I just didn’t feel right doing that.  It seems like a betrayal, and I never want Dimples to feel like she can’t trust her own mother.

The last time we did The Purge, Dimples continued to be difficult, arguing over which pile each small item belonged in.  As we discussed a half-used coloring book that I was ready to put in the trash pile, Dimples suddenly blurted, “Can’t I just give it to you and pretend you’re just going to save it in your room, and you can throw it away without telling me?”

Wow.  Wish I’d thought of that.

So, now that I’ve been given permission by my child to honestly participate in her dishonesty to herself, The Purge goes a bit quicker.  Now the big problem is that I keep finding things in my closet and I can’t remember if they were part of The Purge That I Pretended to Keep and Forgot To Throw Away, or part of the Surge of Things I Save to Give to my Friends’ Younger Children.

I guess I better keep it just in case.


Posted on January 3, 2012, in Cap'n Firepants, Dimples, Family, Humor, Parenting, Relationships and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 23 Comments.

  1. I love The Purge, although at times I get carried away with myself.

  2. writingandrecovering

    I have a Purge almost every weekend. My mom is a minimalist so I grew up watching things get thrown out or just disappear almost constantly. It bothers me if there is something in my room that serves no purpose.

  3. I moved 1500 miles and I certainly had wished that I had done a few purges over the 23 years I had lived in that house. My OCD younger son, Lefty, tosses anything that isn’t currently in use (or so it seems) anything left lying around is likely to be missing in short order.

    • Wow. I can imagine that 23 years could result in quite an accumulation of stuff. That is why, as a rule, I think you should move every two years. I just made up this rule, but it seems like a good one to me.

  4. Oh my gosh!! Can totally relate to this post. The kids come by being hoarders honestly (both sets of our parents or grandparents have major issues with it) and Lance is already a huge packrat. I was kind of letting things disappear, too- but then one of my cousins said her mom would do that to her and it was traumatizing… So we now discuss everything and usually very little gets thrown away or donated. Or he will rummage BACK through the give-away pile and get something back out. Yikes! Lainey hasn’t shown signs yet, thank God!

  5. Haha thats funny!! I swear that the sixth month throw away rule is a scam!! I can have something for 6 years and never need it until i throw it away! My poor son has the same problem with stuff in his wallet, so it is bulging, (not with money either). As soon as we tell him he wont need a receipt and threw it away , he needed it. He has the same bad luck with keys. He was going to a concert and borrowed my car so i made him leave his keys. The last thing i need is a car with no keys. So he left them but wasnt happy about it. Sure enough an hour later he called me and we forgot that along with his truck keys was his apartment key. So you guessed it , he carries around an even bigger wallet and keyring now!

    • What are you talking about? Your house is spotless. I have never once seen any kind of accumulation of anything at your house. I don’t think even the lint could last six months there.

  6. I think Dimples had you pegged the second she understood the purge, and now has increased her storage space by getting you to store it in your closet.
    Very clever, that Dimples!

  7. We used to do the purge, but when one of the kids gets sent to their room, they end up playing with toys they haven’t touched in a long time. It’s odd. But in general, the longer we live here, the more stuff we collect. I can’t purge what i want to.

    • I’m thinking that if no one else wants to purge, and you’re good with it, why should you? Just don’t turn up on an episode of Hoarders or you will have to abide by my New Year’s Resolution #1.

  8. Miranda Gargasz

    Tony, 9, doesn’t understand why we have to give away the “Go, Dog, Go” he’s had since birth. Must be a kid thing.

    • Because of the giant dog party on top of the tree, of course. Do you like my hat?

    • YOU’RE THROWING THAT AWAY? What if it becomes a national treasure some day? What if he becomes President of the World and they decide to build a Presidential Library in Guam and they want all of his childhood books? You are depriving the WORLD of his legacy!!!!

      • I got rid of my son’s “Go Dog Go.” Now I want it back!

      • Miranda Gargasz

        I could never throw it away. I donated it. This way when he grows up he can make millions as a writer telling all the world what a horrible mom I was for throwing away “Go, Dog, Go.” It’s all part of my evil plan. 😉

  9. after i read your posts i almost believe that i am the Meanest Mommy On The Planet (a title bestowed upon me at least weekly by Girl 2). and after reading this one i believe i might be your mother. wait. that would be impossible, right? we live in what’s possibly the tiniest house in s.a. that actually has six people living in it. so i consider it my duty to purge daily without anyone. yeah, the others in the house *kinda* hate me. ah, well. at least we can walk around safely…….most of the time.

    • Unless you married a priest around 30 years ago, I think we can assume you are not my mother. With 6 people in the house, though, I can see why you might be a little more vigilant than me!

  10. Oh dear god…I’m devastasted. My husband has fathered your child!

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