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New Year's means time to clean out the crap

Paper crap
Paper crap
S. Rienzo

New Year’s is really not my favorite time of year. As much as I love Christmas and all of its festivities, by New Year’s I am not only feeling post-Christmas letdown, but ready to get back to normal routines, not the least of which is eating human portions of food again. Plus I deeply dislike saying goodbye, whether it’s to a person or a year.

There is also a lot of pressure at the onset of a new year. Pressure to take stock, reevaluate, resolve and reorganize. It’s like someone holding a mirror up to you on your worst hair day and saying, “You’re kind of a mess. Time for a change?”

But of course, it’s always easier to give advice than to take it, so to that end I decided to put off my own organizing and help my mother with hers today.

It started innocently enough as I simply planned to take down her small tree and a few decorations. No big deal. But when I went to put away the couple of boxes of Christmas paraphernalia, I encountered a huge cabinet filled with more holiday crap. Way way more crap. So much crap that I could not in good conscience place one thing into that cabinet until I investigated what the hell else was in there.

Thus began my first great decrapification of 2014.

It was like the black hole of Christmas crap, because what evidently could not escape from this black hole was an excessive supply of Santa paper products, empty gift boxes (new and used), wrapping paper, tissue paper, bags, tags, cards, and an assortment of items which could be given out as presents just in case.

Honestly? Without exaggeration my mother could open her own small Party City store and not have to restock any merchandise for at least a year. In addition, I should point out that prior to Christmas I had wisely thought to ask her if she had any seasonal paper products before I went out and bought my own. I had suspected the answer was yes, although on the phone my mother denied it. (I had already helped myself to a large supply the year before and she thought I took it all.) But lo and behold, when she checked she did have a bit more, which she dropped off at my house.

However today I found the mother lode (no pun intended). Every time I thought we’d unearthed all of it and moved on to another category…oops…here’s another stack of holiday plates! Ooo…there’s a value pack of dinner napkins! Oh…Yuletide plastic cups! There were literally TWELVE packages of guest towels festooned with holly and trees in the depths of my mother’s garage.

As I frantically texted friends asking if they wanted any paper doilies (and, if so, did they want white, silver or holiday), I wondered why any of this really surprised me since my mom regularly has no less than fourteen rolls of paper towels and eight bottles of Windex on hand at any given time.

But then we moved on to gift-wrapping provisions, of which there was a plethora to say the least. The number of gift bags alone, if laid end to end, could reach halfway to Flagstaff. At this point, the poor woman tried to defend herself by reminding me that she did not wrap even one gift this year because, due to a minor injury, I did all her shopping and wrapping for her. In reality this wasn’t much of a defense. Suffice it to say my mother could wrap presents for the entire state of Arizona and have more than enough supplies to do so.

AND send them all cards.

For the next five years.

When we were taking tinsel off the tree earlier, I had casually suggested we toss it as I remembered there being many more boxes of tinsel a couple of years back. But she insisted there were not and I-gullible and trusting daughter that I am-thought, “Hmmm, okay, I guess all the tinsel got used since then.” Until I later exposed yet another bag full of holiday paper plates only to find FIVE UNOPENED BOXES of tinsel buried at the bottom of the bag. I quickly snatched the saved tinsel and threw it away, while my mom simply said, “Okay.” The woman knows when not to push me.

However my frustration must have been apparent on my never-quite-poker face because several times she suggested we stop and I leave before I “got too upset”.

But why? I asked. I just want to understand why a person needs not one, not two, but four new, unopened and very large packages of gift boxes, PLUS oodles of used empty boxes of all shapes and sizes? My mom is very generous but even she doesn’t give out that many presents. And why, even with all these boxes that never got used, does a person still say each time one is tossed out, “Maybe someone could use that. What if I don’t have enough boxes next year?”

Her explanation? “It’s because of ‘The War’. During the war we couldn’t get boxes and paper so we learned to reuse them and not waste them.”

“Mom”, I replied, “The war is over and we won. Those soldiers fought long and hard so you wouldn’t have to save old Harry and David fruit boxes.”

When we finally finished and went back into the house, my mom directed me to pull something out of the back of her pantry so she could identify it. It turned out to be an oversized bottle of Baileys Irish Cream. She said, “You can have that. I got another bottle for Christmas this year.”

But after what I’d just seen, I knew enough to ask.

Me: “When did you get this bottle?”

Mom: “I don’t know. Last year?”

Me: “Hmmm."

Mom: “Does it have a date on it? Liquor never goes bad anyway.”

Well, dear readers, it did have a date on it. And it had expired.

In August.

Of 2012.

But my mom insisted I take the new bottle (which I verified was not due to expire until 2015). Not falling for the distraction bait, I skeptically asked her what she was planning to do with the vintage 2012 bottle. In true mother-guilt fashion she responded, “I’m keeping it. And if it IS bad, it’s better I should drink it than you.”

Ouch! Dagger in my heart!

However, before I left she insisted I try a sip of the old Baileys “just to prove to you it’s still good”. I suspect she really wanted to see if I gagged on it before she endangered herself. But at least now my guilt was assuaged.

I had to admit, it still tasted yummy.

Which was good because we’ll probably need a big bottle of alcohol around here for a while. There are twelve more overflowing garage cabinets still waiting to be excavated.

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