“Oh, no. This has all got to go!”

While attempting some spring cleaning a few months back, I came to the frightening realization that I was actually turning into my mother – a hoarder. Every cabinet, drawer, and closet was overstuffed with items that had outlived their usefulness. Living in one place for 30 years can do that.

I adored my mother and normally would be proud to be “just like her,” but not in this circumstance. My ability to throw things away couldn’t be as weak as hers. After clearing 52 years of our family’s life to prepare my father’s home for market, I vowed I’d never do that to my children.

I headed for the refrigerator for a little goblet of liquid courage. A glass of Rombauer Chardonnay always has a nice calming effect on me when I’m faced with any overwhelming task.

As I went to open the fridge, I was hit with more unorganized clutter. On every inch of our subzero door, the Madden-Haugh family life was chronicled in hundreds of snapshots.

Scattered without any rhyme or reason, pictures of my children as angel-faced babies, now overlapped with photos of them as young adults in bright costumes and thickly painted faces. They smiled back at me. In the upper right hand corner Christmas photos perched dating back 10 years and lining the bottom, pictures of four graduations intertwined with snapshots of family parties.

Standing back, I inhaled our family’s history. I was on a mission to purge and slowly I began to unpeel a life filled with memories.

“Sorry kids,” I mumbled to myself. “But I don’t want you to have to do this later.”

An hour later, my task was complete. All our memories were organized and stored away. A blank refrigerator door stared back as perfect as the day it was installed.

“Wow, I forgot how pretty this maple panel was,” I said, rubbing my hand over the soft, rich grain of wood. “I should have done this long ago.”

For the next couple of days every time I walked into the kitchen, I had the sick feeling that my children had gone missing. Reaching in to grab the milk, I was sure I’d find their sweet faces on the carton.

It occurred to me that while the refrigerator may have housed life sustaining nutrients, it was the outside that offered a perfectly balanced menu of love, happiness, and family triumph.

Now, it’s not like I don’t have oodles of photographs all over my house and walls. After all, my children are my finest art work, so why was I feeling such a loss over a few removed?

“I feel like our whole family history has been wiped clean,” I thought to myself. “As if it never existed in the first place.”

To know anything about our life together, all one had to do was look at my refrigerator.

“That does it! I’m putting them all back.”

And with deliberation and determination, out came the tape and up went the smudged, somewhat tattered, faded and sticky pictures, plus a few new ones, along with a promise to keep.

“Kids, I vow to clean the attic and bowels of our well lived in home. I’ll throw away things that have no use, meaning or purpose. I’ll not leave you with a disaster later in life, but those pictures are here to stay!”

My refrigerator door will remain the pictorial legacy I plan to leave behind for my unborn grandchildren. What better way for them to understand their lineage than through those happy faces filled with love and mutual respect?