Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

I may have turned into a hoarder. It was most definitely not
intentional. I remember the horror I felt when I cleaned out my
parents’ home after my mother died and my father moved into
assisted living. And then the mountains of paper and other disposables
he managed to accumulate in just a few years there. But I’m afraid
I’m turning into my parents. Every room is filled, some to overflowing.
Several sizes of clothes (the optimistic, realistic, and pessimistic
wardrobes), books from college classes, sentimental things I never use
like serving dishes my mother pulled out for the holidays, old political
campaign buttons, notions/buttons/and ribbons, a couple years of
crosswords cut from the daily paper to prove my brain still works, pet
supplies for animals I will never again own. And so on. Can you give
me some practical suggestions about how to cull? Even if I found the
perfect mate, I don’t have the physical room to invite him into my


Dear Choking:

My simplest advice: tackle this problem room by room. You can do it
one room a week, or take a solid week and do it one room a day. If
you start at ruthless it ill become an acquired habit, so begin where
the most egregious hoarding has occurred. Start with a small, easy
room like your bathroom. Go under the sink. Dump cosmetic and
cleaning products you never use, rags and broken mops, whatever is
clearly trash. It helps, btw to have receptacles to put everything in,
from big garbage bags to recycling containers, and a stash of things
you could donate. I think the idea of a future garage sale is just an
excuse to hang onto things. If it is usable, donate it to a worthy thrift
shop, women’s shelter, or someone else’s garage sale. If not, put it
into a “go away forever” pile.

Then tackle your kitchen, your living room, and every room except
your clothes closet. Like any other form of exercise, it’s a habit that
gets easier with repetition. Clothing still with tags on them earn a
special place in your closet. Your pessimistic (which I read as if-I- gain-
weight clothes) should be minimal, and include only the nicest duds.
Anything with stains or needing repairs, out. Not worn in ___ years,
out. Be ruthless down to your undies and socks. Books to the used
bookstore; old crosswords to the trash. Your goal at the end should be
enough space in each room for another adult to share your home with
you. And from now on, whenever you buy something new, you should
wave goodbye to something old