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December 23, 2008 / Bo Mackison

A Christmas Rummage Sale

Ornaments and More Ornaments

Ornaments and More Ornaments

All my kids are finally home for the Holidays and I made them all promise that, at the first available moment, we would all gather together for a special ceremony – Mom’s De-cluttering Hour.

In 33 Christmas seasons, my family has amassed an alarming array of Christmas decorations. When I went into the basement at the beginning of the month, I was surprised to find eight boxes marked Christmas Decorations. There were three boxes of tree ornaments alone. Way too much stuff as far as I’m concerned. After we decorated the house, gently decorated, not crammed with bric-a-brac everywhere, we had five boxes of decorations that we had once happily used, but that we no longer wanted nor needed. I immediately had visions of throwing all the extras in the car and dashing to Goodwill, but then inspiration struck.

My kids had grown up with these decorations. Just because the Santas and sparklies didn’t fit into my celebration mode now, it didn’t mean they held no importance for my children.  So I gave each of my kids a call, asked them if they’d be interested in a Christmas decoration rummage sale – with one special clause. There would be no price tags. They could come, browse, and take whatever they wanted. Then whatever remained we would donate to others looking for new holiday decorations. All three kids were enthusiastic about the idea.

And so we gathered this afternoon.  In less than 30 minutes, all the decorations were sorted into four boxes – older daughter, son, younger daughter, Goodwill. And in those 30 minutes, I discovered a little something about the different personalities of my three 20-something children.

My eldest picked up everything that caught her eye, loved the bright ornaments and table decorations, and often took a trinket if I told her it was something her great-grandmother had crafted. She even took slightly imperfect ornaments, certain she could make the necessary repairs.  (And she can – she supports herself as a maintenance person while going to school.)  She easily filled two boxes and then some. But at one moment, when she picked up one of the few items her brother showed an interest in, she quickly gave it to him without a quibble.

My middle child gathered the few things that were specifically his: a Baby’s First Christmas ornament engraved with the year of his birth; a miniature baseball slugger; an Oscar the Grouch in his trash can ornament.  He picked up an Advent calendar and remarked how he remembered moving the little mouse from hole to hole until the 24th hole was reached and he knew that the next day would be Christmas Day. He wanted that calendar. Then he remarked that he didn’t really want stuff to just have stuff. He filled a small shoebox, and he was more than satisfied.

My youngest picked all the basics: place mats; tablecloths; a dozen, plain gold baubles for the tree.  She asked for the tree skirt, the one I had embroidered more than three decades ago as a young wife preparing for my first married Christmas. She filled a box, but her items were quite bulky and all rather sensible.

It was interesting to see how each reacted in their own, different way, what things each one found to be important.

At the end, we filled another 3 boxes with very usable items that we will deliver first thing to the neighborhood Goodwill store. I know it’s very close to Christmas, but maybe some last minute shopper will be able to find a few decorations to add to their Holiday celebration.

And after the first of the year, when we return everything to the basement shelves for another year, I will have successfully done some serious de-cluttering. That’s a grand way to celebrate this season as far as I’m concerned.

As the years start to accumulate, I find that the simpler is the better.


  1. Pat Denino / Dec 23 2008 11:19 pm

    What a wonderful idea! I also have boxes of ornaments I no longer care to use, and was prepared to send them to Goodwill, but held back. Maybe this is the way to do it.

  2. montucky / Dec 23 2008 11:56 pm

    Terrific idea and the responses were fascinating!

  3. Marcie / Dec 24 2008 3:22 am

    A beautiful story. Especially love how the personalities of your three chidren emerge while doing such a simple task. T’would be a good exercise for my 3 20-somethings as well.
    Wishing you love and laughter..and may all your holidays be bright.

  4. Anna Surface / Dec 24 2008 5:51 am

    I imagine, deep inside each of your children, special memories were for each of them, as well as the moment together all grown up sorting through the memories. How beautiful, and a keepsake time for each. Yes, a grand way to celebrate the season. Enjoyed this post, Bo.

  5. Gandalf / Dec 24 2008 8:02 am

    The photo, while a still life, is active, celebratory and raucous. I love it. Your idea for dispersing ornaments and Christmas items is a gem.

    Merry Christmas.

  6. Debi / Dec 24 2008 10:58 am

    Outstanding idea, Bo. When my teenager flies the coop I’m going to let her choose the Christmas decorations she wants for her first tree. Merry Christmas, Bo!

  7. Visuallens / Dec 24 2008 12:36 pm

    Merry Christmas. Nice story and photo.May Santa bring you and your family joy, peace and good health.

  8. Robin / Dec 24 2008 1:47 pm

    What a wonderful idea! I think I’ll do something similar next year when the kids are here. I’m sure we have at least 8 boxes of Christmas decorations, too.

    Merry Christmas, Bo!

  9. Grace / Dec 24 2008 2:56 pm

    Wow, Bo! This is not only a touching post, but a GREAT idea! I’ve got boxes and boxes of stuff that I don’t use any more…but that (for sentimental reasons), I didnt want to part with!

    Both of my kids are in their early 20s..and my daughter is expecting 🙂 Maybe this is a good year to go through things like you did…after the fact.

    Only, I’m thinking my son won’t be interested enough to make the time, or cut his sleep time down, to go through things! 🙂

    MERRY CHRISTMAS to you and yours!!

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