Sort­ing old clothes and getting with the pro­gramme

The Irish Times - Tuesday - Health - - Family Motherhood - Jen Ho­gan Be­ing Mum

“We have five coats for a two-year-old hang­ing in the wardrobe,” came the call from my hus­band as he made t an­other at­tempt to thin the mound of cloth­ing that clut­tered the chil­dren’s rooms.

I was down­stairs at­tempt­ing to make sense of the bane of my life, the play­room, which was over­flow­ing with toys, or bits of toys. A pre-Christ­mas clear-out is al­ways es­sen­tial be­fore Santa ar­rives with, eh, more toys.

“I’ll put them in the char­ity bag,” he added. That was enough to see me race up the stairs at a speed a less well-co­or­di­nated Usain Bolt might have con­sid­ered mildly ac­cept­able. You see, when it comes to sort­ing our kid­dies’ clothes, I just don’t trust him. My hus­band is of a “if in doubt, chuck it out” dis­po­si­tion when it comes to such mat­ters – the com­plete and po­lar op­po­site of me.


The great thing about hav­ing a large fam­ily is that there’s lots of stuff to pass on to other sib­lings. The bad thing about hav­ing a large fam­ily is that there’s lots of stuff you hang on to, con­vinc­ing your­self you’ll pass it on to other sib­lings, but that re­ally you just don’t want to part with in the first place. This can range from dan­gly, half-chewed, sin­gle-eyed toys that hung from a first child’s play-mat to a pair of much-loved wellie boots (well, pair might be stretch­ing it, but I know the other one is some­where in the house).

It’s not that I’m an ex­treme hoarder. I’ll quite hap­pily dis­card any of my hubby’s stuff with lit­tle more than a pass­ing thought.

I have no is­sue “los­ing” cer­tain hor­ren­dous, gaudy-coloured foot­ball shirts that pass through the wash – and no­body needs that many sports books!

When it comes my chil­dren’s pos­ses­sions, there’s an emo­tional at­tach­ment and an as­so­ci­a­tion with so many mem­o­ries.

But the real de­clut­ter­ing chal­lenge comes with the men­tion of clothes that are too small to fit any­one in the house and the con­tem­pla­tion and ac­cep­tance that this stage might be over for good. An­other mile­stone in a year of mile­stones.

Septem­ber saw me for the first time in 17 years have no child at home in the morn­ing as the youngest be­gan Montes­sori. The free­dom of sorts to work tem­po­rar­ily un­in­ter­rupted was over­shad­owed a lit­tle by the mag­ni­tude of the mile­stone that had oc­curred. With my first-born on the cusp of adult­hood and my youngest out­grow­ing things far more quickly than I’m pre­pared to dis­card them, an emo­tional roller­coaster has been un­leashed – a year of first “lasts” and last “firsts”.

I’ve al­ways found it hard to get my head around my chil­dren getting older. There was one brief ex­cep­tion to the ex­pe­ri­ence when the shock of first-time moth­er­hood and the re­lent­less cry­ing of an un­set­tled and sleep-re­sis­tant first­born meant, for a pe­riod, I looked for­ward to it all be­com­ing a bit more man­age­able.

When my daugh­ter was born, my neigh­bour’s mother popped in to ad­mire her, con­grat­u­late me and pass on some words of wis­dom. “Oh en­joy this stage, it’s the best,” she said while peek­ing at my squawk­ing bun­dle of joy who by now was as puce as her baby­gro from cry­ing. In my sleep-de­prived, milk-leak­ing, stitch-hurt­ing, highly emo­tional state, I fig­ured she was barmy and so I just nod­ded.


But nos­tal­gia has a way of mak­ing you for­get the slightly more chal­leng­ing times of par­ent­hood – the potty train­ing hor­rors, the sleep­less nights and mid-su­per­mar­ket full-scale tantrums.

“I still can’t be­lieve it’s her last year in school,” I said to my hus­band, while surveying the clothes pile he was at­tempt­ing to cull.

“For once, I’m glad of the crip­pling Dublin mort­gage. At least she’ll have to go to col­lege in Dublin,” I joked

“I’m keep­ing two of those coats by the way – they have spe­cial mean­ing to me,” I said. “I’ve cleared three bags worth from the play­room,” I added by way of com­pro­mise.

“Our ceil­ing is go­ing to come down,” he grum­bled as he put my bag of spe­cial-mean­ing clothes in the at­tic along­side our re­cently dis­man­tled cot-bed.

“Well, you never know, we might need them again,” I said, de­cid­ing I couldn’t yet ac­cept the fi­nal­ity.

“And be­sides, there’ll be plenty of space avail­able if you got rid of some of these pro­grammes,” I added de­fen­sively, hand­ing him an Ire­land-All Black’s 1997 match pro­gramme be­fore run­ning back down­stairs, leav­ing him un­sure which point to ar­gue first.

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