After forty-one years of living in our house, we have forty-one years of stuff to get rid of. It was not clear where we should begin, but Don said we should start in the “hobby room,” a room we intended (in the early 1970s when we were planning the house) that we would use for craft projects. It has the potential for hot and cold water connections and 240 volt electrical service, in case we ever wanted our own pottery kiln. Those were never completed. Instead, when all three kids were still home, the room was used as a guest room for long-term guests, once a visiting student at The Overlake School, and again our niece from Omaha. As the kids left, Jeff’s room became Don’s study, Judy’s room became the guest room, and John’s room held overflow toys from the rec room. The hobby room filled up with camping and hiking gear, luggage, legal papers (from Don’s legal career), giant packages from Costco, stuff the kids stored here, mementos from the children’s childhoods, a doll house project I started and abandoned, and photographs from my parents’ apartment. (When I emptied my parents’ apartment in Omaha in February, 1995, I didn’t know what to do with all their photograph albums, so I sent them to my home in Seattle. Big mistake.)
I started with my parents’ photographs. My father was a terrible photographer but he kept every snapshot he ever took, and my mother dutifully installed them in albums. She also fastened on to those pages every snapshot of anyone in the family that any of us ever sent her, and these were simply added to books where there were free pages, in no particular order, not by family group or season or chronologically. So my first task, and a very difficult one, was to go through those albums and remove any photo that might have meaning to me or to the rest of the family. I sorted the keepers into piles–my immediate family was one, each of my brothers had one pile, and one each to cousin families. Most of the pictures and the albums went right into the recycle bin. There were page after page of generic scenes in Israel, with no labels or recognizable landmarks. It was hard; I gave the wastebaskets to Don and said, “Take them out quick, I may change my mind.” Eventually I will designate one sibling in my brothers’ families to receive and distribute their photos and send them off. Finally in summer of 2016 I am completing the task I should have done in 1995.