I have my work cut out for me, and it’s perpetually hanging over my head

There’s a door in my daughter’s bedroom that leads to the attic. We pretty much keep it closed at all times, because if the cat were to get loose up there, she might never return.


It’s a wonderful playland in our attic. I mean, if you’re feline. Or a hoarder.


The only way to travel there safely is by gingerly placing your toes between the Precious Moments figurines, size 2T overalls, first generation iPad boxes, decorative twine balls, and bear traps that cover the 13 steps that make up Odds and Ends Avenue.


Then simply duck under the sheets of downed insulation and you’ll find yourself in Beanie Baby Jungle.


That’s the place the cat would go to live out her days if she could. I just know it. And she’d probably claw up all those priceless collectibles before I have a chance to put them on eBay.


It’s been years since I made the trek (I did go up there last November to wrestle the artificial Christmas tree and boxes of adornments out of the eaves in the Brook of Baubles, but this year counts as five years at least. Just want to make sure you understand that none of this is an exaggeration of any kind).


With the kids growing up and leaving home, it’s high time that the attic gets cleared out.


But I just can’t do it.


Not because I’m super sentimental about the stuff that I’ve carefully and not-so-carefully tucked up there through the years. Even though I am, a little.


It’s because it would take at least six solid months of nonstop work to get the space in any semblance of order.


That is, unless I just open the tiny window at the top of the stairs and start chucking things out—which I’ve thought about doing. Believe me.


Sometimes I even fantasize about attaching one of those plastic chutes that the construction guys use to funnel debris into a receptacle with its metal mouth open wide below. Bliss.


But it would be sinful to trash the stuff I have saved up there. I know it’s sinful to just leave it sitting when someone else can enjoy it too. I’m going to donate this stuff eventually. I swear.


Now is not the time though.


Don’t worry, I’ve heard all about Marie Kondo. But you can’t possibly imagine how much stuff is stored in that darn attic. Even though a lot of it is junk, there’s enough sitting there ready to spark joy that I’d turn this place into an inferno.


Being the eldest sibling, I was the first to have children. I had so much fun buying clothes and dressing up my babies that I thought for sure that when their cousins came along, they’d want to wear all our hand-me-down Osh Kosh B’Gosh duds.


But my sisters didn’t bite when I waded into Infant Isle and came downstairs with an array of musty, yellowed attic onesies that had sat dormant for more than a decade before their babies arrived on the scene.


I had good intentions, too, of letting some other children rock on the rocking horses in Toddler Town and play with and love on the American Girl dolls that are sleeping stacked in their boxes in Pre-Teen Alley, which is located just behind Wrapping Paper Lane.


Every time I pass by Molly and Kit and Julie and Samantha and push away my wedding dress that stands at the entrance to the Forest of Winter Coats, I travel back in time to that trip we took to Chicago aboard the Megabus.


We opted for public transportation for the six-hour drive to the Windy City—which was then the site of the closest American Girl Store—because we were gambling that our 12-, 10-, and 8-year-olds would be more well-behaved with a bunch of strangers around.


We were right. It was a fantastic trip. Just ask the fuzzy Benny the Bull head our son brought home as a souvenir from a night with his dad at the United Center.


Benny’s over in the Sea of School Bags and Books. Hang a left between the honey maple dining room table with drop-down leaves and the whitewashed wicker daybed frame that are on the outskirts of Furniture Town and you’ll see him perched on top of a Dora the Explorer wheelie case bursting with first-grade papers.


I’m not the only one who couldn’t bear to part with mementos of childhood. In the Old World section of our attic, there’s a whole tranche of items from my husband’s and my youth, passed to us from the attics of our own mothers.


Every baseball card my husband ever rubbed his fingers across is piled in shoebox after shoebox, right underneath his college letterman’s jacket. And the stack of vinyl albums that I played on the stereo system my parents gave me for my 13th birthday is up there too, along with Van Halen’s “1984” on tape—the first cassette that turned on in that staticky machine when I pressed Play.


I know that I’m supposed to pare everything down to a small stack of never-to-part-with items and declutter the rest. By extension, I suppose—as the logic goes—I’ll also be simplifying my life.


But I just opened the attic door and tossed an armload of beat-up purses filled with lipstick tubes and pennies up the stairs. I don’t think I can navigate the trail anymore.


Darn it, because I was almost ready to go up there.



Read more articles by Kathleen Osborne.

Kathleen Osborne is the mother of three children who now are legally considered adults, although she has trouble assigning that label to herself. She is the marketing and communication director at Hathaway Brown School, where she’s inspired by creative, smart, and confident girls every day.

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