Throw away all my clutter? An impossible task

By Bill Shepard

What to keep and what to throw away is my dilemma. It is not an easy problem for me. I suppose that I am too sentimental! Lines from one of Kenny Rogers’ old songs just played in my mind: “When to hold ’em, when to fold ’em, when to walk away…” I am tempted to just walk away and leave my clutter for others to deal with, but that would not be the right thing to do. Everyone that lives as long as I have collects a lot of clutter. I have been accused of wanting to keep everything until “death do us part” and I plead guilty to the charge. I suppose I have lived by that old saying that I have often heard, “If you keep it long enough, you will find a use for it.” For that reason, instead of throwing something away, I just put it on the shelf. Some of that thinking reverts back to my childhood years. An empty coffee can with a lid would be used to keep my marbles in; an empty wooden box made a good cab for the wagon I would make. I would sit in the cab and guide my wagon down the steep railroad embankment near the house where I grew up as a boy. An empty tin snuff can made a good penny bank to save my pennies in. I was never guilty of filling one! I could blame some of my actions on watching my Dad, year after year building pig-pens! Dad built a new pig-pen or did repairs on the old one every year. I would help by pulling the old nails from the rotted boards with a hammer. I would straighten the bent ones and place them in a can. Dad would saw the boards (slabs) to the length he wanted and the building would begin. Dad was the only person I ever knew who could use the same nail over and over again! I suppose I could find a lot of reasons why I have so much clutter, but that is not my problem; how to deal with it is! Oh, if I had just listened to my good wife when she would say, “Throw it away!” I have made a start! I am sitting at my desk and going through the drawers where I have put stuff away for years. That word “stuff” fits my clutter well; it can mean so many things! I have pretty cards and letters from each of my children, some dating back to their college days when they were away. There are Father’s Day cards, birthday cards, and cards and notes just to say they love me. I read them over and over, and just sat quietly, remembering the years gone by. Throw them away? It would be hard! Then there is a drawer filled with drawings, printed notes, colored pictures from a coloring book, and words printed that say, “I Love You, Pa Pa!” There are cards and printed letters from each of my five grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. All are grown now and probably collecting clutter from their own children. In another drawer there are pictures, so many pictures! One can spend a day looking at pictures and reminiscing over them. How can I part with all these memories before me? There are other letters and cards from folks who read my book, “Mill Village Boy.” They wrote to tell me how much my book reminded them of their own years of living on a mill village and working in a cotton mill. Many of those letters – so encouraging! – I have tucked away, but would they mean anything to any other? Throw them all away? It may be easier said than done! More memories, more clutter; here is a letter from the late Horace Rudisill of the Darlington County Historical Commission. He was asking for help identifying a picture he had received from a person from out of state. The picture was of a large house located on the mill village and near the old mill. Rudisill and I talked at times about the old mill village. We shared other memories that seemed of interest to him. Throw the letter in the trash heap? Tell me how? This is the second day sitting at my desk and reading through my clutter. What to keep and what to throw away gets no easier. The clutter in the basement and in the barn is still before me; progress is slow. I will keep at the task.

Author: Stephan Drew

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