The Last of Her Stuff

My oldest child just graduated from college and landed her first big-girl job. Of course, this meant she had to move. I had been waiting for this day for three years. The day when she would have a place big enough for long enough that we could purge our house of the remainder of her detritus. I know that probably sounds harsh but this child has a lifelong history of leaving stuff in a trail behind her. We call it her trail of slime. You can tell where she’s been just by following the breadcrumbs of shoes, dirty socks, book bags, etc. On visits home from college she’d come in the door, take her shoes off, walk six feet and drop her dirty laundry bag, walk another five feet and drop her coat and backpack, walk down the hall to her room and deposit her duffle bag, come back down the hall and scatter her toiletries in the bathroom, and then return to unpack the backpack a few feet from where she dropped it. And all the stuff would stay where she had dropped it until she would leave two days later when she followed the trail back out the door.

I’m married to a pack rat, who incidentally also tends to leave a trail of slime despite him being one of the loudest critics of the child’s trail. It’s not his fault. His father is a pack rat. I’d be tempted to say it’s a flaw on the Y chromosome  but none of my offspring have a Y chromosome and two-thirds of my children have inherited the pack rat DNA. My oldest is one of the afflicted. The closet in her former bedroom was packed floor to ceiling with boxes of stuff that did not go to college with her. She had boxes in our storeroom. She had a cedar-lined trunk in the bedroom of one of her siblings, a source of great tension as that child is also one of the pack rats and has some relational difficulties with the older sibling. I’ve spent three years hearing about the mental distress caused by this item’s physical footprint and its impact on the sibling having enough space for her own junk—ahem, belongings.

To be fair, I have had some degree of pack rat tendencies at times in my life. I also have a degree of genetic causation for this from my mother and grandmother. I, however, have outgrown it a bit with age and maturity. Somewhere along the way, over the last 25 years, I have become very in-tune with how negatively “collecting” stuff is for my mental health and have really been on a mission to separate myself from stuff that serves no purpose in my life other than to take up space. I am not always successful at this but I’m trying. And here is where eldest child’s moving collides with my former pack rat days. I moved out of my parents’ house 25-ish years ago. I have lived in 7 different dwellings since leaving their house. And each time I have moved over the past 25 years my parents have shown up at my new dwelling with a pickup truck full of things claiming it’s “the last of [my] stuff from [their] house.” Just this past Christmas they showed up with a pickup truck of more of my stuff. What didn’t add up about this was they told me that the previous truckload they brought for Thanksgiving five years ago was “the last of [my] stuff at [their] house.”

I was not going to let this become a family tradition. The remainder of her stuff at our house was loaded into our 19-year-old minivan for moving day. And I happily told her, “This is the last of your stuff at our house.”

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