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What About The Stuff?

There are some things I'm loving about this trip already. I'm selfishly loving the day when the incredible amount of crap that lies around my kids bedroom gets gone. You simply can't travel for a year with a large collection of stuffed animals (and their wardrobes), two industrial bins of Tinkertoys, four-dozen Polly Pocket parts, ten year's worth of Lego, and some 2500 Magic: The Gathering and Yu Gi Oh cards. I know I shouldn't be so heartless. I know that some people really like things. Things comfort them. My mom for instance; she needs her things -- her collections around her. They make her feel secure. I'm not like this. I simply love the feeling I get when I have six bags waiting on the front porch for Sally Army to collect. It feels like my insides have more space to breath.

I'm beginning to suspect that my children -- especially Eleanor, my six-year-old daughter -- might not share my love of a good purge. While these days she spends almost all her free time creating wonderments out of cardboard boxes and toilet paper rolls, ignoring her toys completely, she simply can't bear to part with ANYTHING! Old clothing that no longer fits holds emotional value because she wore it to a special party or it was given to her by her Nana. Boxes of baby toys are to be kept in case any of our younger friends come over to play. I try to see this from her point of view, but her point of view is so six-year-old! If left to her own devices, her future children would have complete wardrobes from birth. Collections of her beloved stained t-shirts and jeans with no knees, her long dresses that became short skirts as she grew and even her Tinkerbell underwear that already fit her dolls better than they fit her. All, much too sentimentally valuable not to save for the next 20 years. So, recently I've enacted a rule that works for me, and doesn't seem too hard on the children. Every birthday and Christmas they get a huge influx of stuff. At those times they have to find a toy to bless someone else with for every toy they get. It helps.

I am having - I'm willing to admit - my own purging pains as I go along. The only real collecting I do is vintage clothing, and I have the same feeling about my collection as I imagine a collector of anything has; I simply love my vintage clothes. They're all pieces of wonderfully crafted history. Someone long ago loved them probably as much as I love them now. (Someone like my daughter.) Now, I don't keep what I can't -- or don't -- wear. It's not a collection that requires a spare bedroom or its own storage space. But the things I have, I know I'll never find again. I don't know what I'm going to do with them. I have evening gowns for the occasional black-tie event; I won't be wearing those on the trip. I have wicked-hip coats for winter and darling dresses for summer. Will I pack for an entire year? That's four entire seasons! The other day Bob had an idea: We would all pare everything down to one backpack each. No checked luggage. That would be our theme. I told him that I liked a theme that included Sherpas much better. He didn't even fake a laugh. So it's hard for everyone.

Knowing that this journey is going to entail the Mother-Of-All-Purges, we're starting to prepare our kids for this inevitable, and probably painful, downsizing. We've asked our kids, "What's the first thing you'll choose to take with you on the trip?" Owen said, "My [Nintendo] DS -- for plane trips." Ella said, "Clothes and my Aiya doll." So far so good. What's my first thing? Don't even start. All I know is that I'll be packing it in my set of vintage pink-marbled Samsonite suitcases.

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