The junk stops here | Living with Gleigh

My mom often saves articles she finds in various print media for me and my family. So it wasn’t surprising the other day when she handed me a large envelope full of articles and a magazine for my husband.

It took me a week to finally open the envelope and dole out the articles to their respective owners. This time most of them were for me and they were from 2007. Then I remembered my mom said she was cleaning out her files. On the plus side, the articles were about local authors and that meant she was thinking of me; it’s nice to be thought of. On the negative side, that meant they were now in my court and I had to do something with them.

I do have a physical file that is labeled “articles,” but it contains all of five things that have really resonated with me in the past 20 years. I can Google local authors, so for me saving such articles is not worth the space they take up. So I read them all, was grateful for the thought, then tossed them; not because I didn’t appreciate them, but because the junk stops here.

I am regularly on the receiving end of things people are getting rid of: with my sister it’s teacher gifts she can’t use; plus-sized clothes from my neighbor who is no longer plus-sized; coupons from another neighborhood friend, just to name a few. It’s inherently easier to give someone else stuff you are no longer using than to sort it, make decisions about it and disperse it to various donation or recycle locations, I’ve done it myself. But when I do it, it seems to backfire, as I often get back what I’ve given, making it once again my problem.

Of course, my daughters also consider me the cast-off receiver. But it’s a different story with them. They are of the mindset that if you give it to mom the stuff magically disappears. What they haven’t learned is mom sorts through it all, makes a list for tax purposes and donates it to Goodwill.

When my kids were little and it was time to clean out old, forgotten toys, I would dutifully take them into their rooms so they could make the decisions about what to get rid of. It was an exhausting exercise for me, because rather than them ever being ready to get rid of things, I had to try and talk them out of things. I chose my battles, though, and focused on the toys that drove me the most nuts.

I remember my youngest had a big Blue’s Clues pillow (Blue’s Clues is a blue cartoon dog on PBS). She really didn’t pay much mind to the pillow. It was big and in the way; it always got stepped on and tossed aside. When I tried to get her to let it go, she was adamant about keeping it.

So I pulled out my next strategy: I dropped the subject and observed over the next month how much attention that pillow got. When I determined she didn’t play with it or use it in any way, I donated it. She never noticed; although six months later she went looking for that pillow. I suggested to her she must’ve misplaced it and should go find it. But we know how it is when kids have to look for something (even when they are teens), they make do with something else and forget about it.

I do keep some sentimental items, but as I get older, the sentiment of some items has passed. What I valued as a teen is old and dated now that I have teens. There are items from my twenties I don’t even recognize. I’ve organized my daughters’ elementary art work into large scrapbooks; someday they’ll make the decision whether to keep them or not.

However, I have to admit I am often tempted to hold on to aspects of my daughters’ childhoods. When my 15-year old daughter decided she was finished collecting frogs and purged much of her collection, my heart dropped into my stomach as I looked at the Goodwill box and saw her childhood.

But I took a deep breath, sorted them, and donated them. It was her collection, not mine and she did keep the more sentimental pieces. I have trained her well, but still, the junk stops here.

Gretchen Leigh is a stay-at-home mom who lives in Covington. She is committed to writing about the humor amidst the chaos of a family. You can also read more of her writing and her daily blog on her website Her column is available every week at

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