1. Acquired: My mother bought this pair of lamps sometime between 1989 and 1992; I inherited them in 2007.
My memory of going out to buy these lamps is somewhat vivid. I can’t remember whether it was my mother’s first post-divorce boyfriend or my stepfather who accompanied us and I can’t remember whether we went to Belk’s or Thalhimer’s, but I distinctly remember playing in between the giant flip-through room sized rugs hanging from the ceiling while my mother shopped. I remember being really excited when she chose purple. (Or lavender, or puce, or mauve, or whatever the hell version of purple they are. And now I’ve got a hankering to play Beyond Zork.)
For frugality’s sake I should probably re-purpose the purple lamps for bedside illumination, but quite frankly I’m tired of looking at them.
Hoarded for: 20 ish or 4 years, depending on how you count it.
to Tossed: 2011. Unless my mother recalls them or someone local wants to adopt the pair, they’re off to Goodwill.
Pain at loss: Excruciating.
Addendum: My mother reports that the lamps are even older than I remember. She vaguely recalls living my baby sister at home with my dad, which would date them all the way back to before the divorce (but after my sister was born), somewhere between very late 1986 and mid 1989. I think she’s right; the fact that I can’t remember which adult male was with us and I have no recollection of my sister playing among the rugs with me would seem to confirm it. 
Off they go, then.

    Acquired: My mother bought this pair of lamps sometime between 1989 and 1992; I inherited them in 2007.

    My memory of going out to buy these lamps is somewhat vivid. I can’t remember whether it was my mother’s first post-divorce boyfriend or my stepfather who accompanied us and I can’t remember whether we went to Belk’s or Thalhimer’s, but I distinctly remember playing in between the giant flip-through room sized rugs hanging from the ceiling while my mother shopped. I remember being really excited when she chose purple. (Or lavender, or puce, or mauve, or whatever the hell version of purple they are. And now I’ve got a hankering to play Beyond Zork.)

    For frugality’s sake I should probably re-purpose the purple lamps for bedside illumination, but quite frankly I’m tired of looking at them.

    Hoarded for: 20 ish or 4 years, depending on how you count it.

    to Tossed: 2011. Unless my mother recalls them or someone local wants to adopt the pair, they’re off to Goodwill.

    Pain at loss: Excruciating.

    Addendum: My mother reports that the lamps are even older than I remember. She vaguely recalls living my baby sister at home with my dad, which would date them all the way back to before the divorce (but after my sister was born), somewhere between very late 1986 and mid 1989. I think she’s right; the fact that I can’t remember which adult male was with us and I have no recollection of my sister playing among the rugs with me would seem to confirm it. 

    Off they go, then.

  2. Acquired: 2001 - 2010
I worked at California’s most beloved fast food burger chain on and off for almost ten years because if you’re going to work a job that requires a funny hat and sends you home reeking of dead cow, In-N-Out is the only place I know of that pays well enough to make it worth your while. 
It was a fun job, but I’m done. The final perk of a long career at In-N-Out? After you leave, you stand to make a little bit of money hawking the company branded items you’ve been given over the years. People are crazy about In-N-Out.
This isn’t even half my swag, but I’m keeping the bad-ass cookie jar we got for Christmas in 2007.
Sold: 2011. 
Hoarded for: 9 to just a few years.
Pain at loss: None. I listened to Reel Big Fish on repeat for a week after I quit.

    Acquired: 2001 - 2010

    I worked at California’s most beloved fast food burger chain on and off for almost ten years because if you’re going to work a job that requires a funny hat and sends you home reeking of dead cow, In-N-Out is the only place I know of that pays well enough to make it worth your while. 

    It was a fun job, but I’m done. The final perk of a long career at In-N-Out? After you leave, you stand to make a little bit of money hawking the company branded items you’ve been given over the years. People are crazy about In-N-Out.

    This isn’t even half my swag, but I’m keeping the bad-ass cookie jar we got for Christmas in 2007.

    Sold: 2011. 

    Hoarded for: 9 to just a few years.

    Pain at loss: None. I listened to Reel Big Fish on repeat for a week after I quit.

  3. Acquired: 2007
We didn’t get engaged until 2008, but when my future husband and I spent one of our earliest dates attending a local theater production of Bat-Boy: The Musical, I began to suspect - barring some unforeseen implosion - that I was done.
There’s an entire container of programs dating all the way back to a 1994 production of Beauty and the Beast at Playmakers in Chapel Hill taking up space in our spare bedroom closet, awaiting judgment.

In the future maybe we won’t waste paper or money on programs (75% ads, 25% cast & crew list). We’ll just use our fancy cell phones to scan a barcode at the stage door. (Somethingsomethingsomething. Profit?)
Hoarded for: Just under four years.
Tossed: 2011
Pain at loss: None, especially now that I’m poised to get rich off of digital programs.

    Acquired: 2007

    We didn’t get engaged until 2008, but when my future husband and I spent one of our earliest dates attending a local theater production of Bat-Boy: The Musical, I began to suspect - barring some unforeseen implosion - that I was done.

    There’s an entire container of programs dating all the way back to a 1994 production of Beauty and the Beast at Playmakers in Chapel Hill taking up space in our spare bedroom closet, awaiting judgment.

    In the future maybe we won’t waste paper or money on programs (75% ads, 25% cast & crew list). We’ll just use our fancy cell phones to scan a barcode at the stage door. (Somethingsomethingsomething. Profit?)

    Hoarded for: Just under four years.

    Tossed: 2011

    Pain at loss: None, especially now that I’m poised to get rich off of digital programs.

  4. Acquired: circa 1991
Stegosaurus; modeling clay and construction paper. His legs fell off some time in the mid-nineties.
Hoarded for: 20 years. I think my mother used this differently-abled dinosaur as a paper weight for a while. I briefly considered giving him back to her, but I’m 26 now and I don’t think she’ll keep it around just to make me feel good about my sculpting skills. My self esteem is as good as it’s going to get.
Tossed: 2011
Pain at loss: After twenty minutes of trying to convince myself that he really does make a classy paper weight, I had to let him go. I’ve still got half a mind to rescue him from the garbage bin.
I’ll miss you, stupid ugly legless stegosaurus. I’m still that amazed your construction paper spikes held up for two decades.

    Acquired: circa 1991

    Stegosaurus; modeling clay and construction paper. His legs fell off some time in the mid-nineties.

    Hoarded for: 20 years. I think my mother used this differently-abled dinosaur as a paper weight for a while. I briefly considered giving him back to her, but I’m 26 now and I don’t think she’ll keep it around just to make me feel good about my sculpting skills. My self esteem is as good as it’s going to get.

    Tossed: 2011

    Pain at loss: After twenty minutes of trying to convince myself that he really does make a classy paper weight, I had to let him go. I’ve still got half a mind to rescue him from the garbage bin.

    I’ll miss you, stupid ugly legless stegosaurus. I’m still that amazed your construction paper spikes held up for two decades.

  5. Acquired: 1999

    I bought this day planner before the movie came out, when we were all still naive enough to believe that Natalie Portman + Star Wars couldn’t possibly go wrong. Fourteen years old is just young enough to use a Star Wars day planner without being a loser, right? 

    No?

    Damn.

    Then I guess it’s a good thing I’ve never used a day planner for more than a few weeks before tossing it in a box somewhere and forgetting about it.

    I never wrote any homework assignments in my Padme planner (July is the only month with any significant notes), but I do have a fairly detailed record of the month before I turned 15 - not to mention evidence that I was more excited than most about the Star Wars prequels Natalie Portman.

    Thrown away: 2011. 

    Hoarded for: 12 years.

    Pain at loss: More than I’d like to admit. I’m keeping my Queen Amidala Trapper Keeper folder. Forever.

  6. Acquired: 1993

    In the winter of 1993, I checked out a “How to Make Pop-up Cards” book from the library and became obsessed. I made at least 30 or so pop-up cards over the course of a fortnight, swiping supplies from the after-school care arts & crafts closet. I gave most of the cards away, including an intricately cut cow with a mouth that appeared to speak when you opened and closed the card just-so. “Moo-ry Christmas! Happy Moo Year!”

    I was nine, what do you want from me?

    Hoarded for: 18 years. And counting.

    Stored: Upgraded from a plastic sterlite box in the study to the cedar chest my great grandfather built for me but didn’t quite finish before he died.

    Pain at loss: Too much. I can’t just throw them away. I’m keeping my greeting card masterpieces at least until the occasion arises to gift them to someone who will appreciate dorky pop-up cards from nine-year-old me.

    So pretty much just my Mom.

  7. Acquired: 1995 ish
Old tee-shirts I can at least shove in a bin and store in the closet using the old “One of these days I’m going to make a tee-shirt quilt!” justification, but I have no idea how I’ve rationalized hanging on to my old library cards. I left Yorktown in 1997 and Durham in 2000, and while there’s a slim chance I might check out and forget to return a book while visiting Durham, the odds of my ever being in Yorktown for longer than a day at the battlefield are slim to none.
Thrown out: 2011. Throwing out bits of plastic seemed like a waste of dinosaur bones, so I googled “what to do with old library cards” and discovered that both the Durham and York County libraries have huge eBook & digital media collections I can access using my old barcode numbers, which I’ve saved in an email to myself.
I also discovered that there’s a kid who collects library cards. If I hear back from him (her?) in the next week or so, I’m donating my cards to the collection, already 3000 strong, where at least they’ll be part of what I’m pretty sure is a world record.
Hoarded for: about 16 years.
Pain at loss: I was a big reader as a kid, so it looked like tossing these was going to be irrationally painful until I found out about the eBooks and the kid who collects library cards.

    Acquired: 1995 ish

    Old tee-shirts I can at least shove in a bin and store in the closet using the old “One of these days I’m going to make a tee-shirt quilt!” justification, but I have no idea how I’ve rationalized hanging on to my old library cards. I left Yorktown in 1997 and Durham in 2000, and while there’s a slim chance I might check out and forget to return a book while visiting Durham, the odds of my ever being in Yorktown for longer than a day at the battlefield are slim to none.

    Thrown out: 2011. Throwing out bits of plastic seemed like a waste of dinosaur bones, so I googled “what to do with old library cards” and discovered that both the Durham and York County libraries have huge eBook & digital media collections I can access using my old barcode numbers, which I’ve saved in an email to myself.

    I also discovered that there’s a kid who collects library cards. If I hear back from him (her?) in the next week or so, I’m donating my cards to the collection, already 3000 strong, where at least they’ll be part of what I’m pretty sure is a world record.

    Hoarded for: about 16 years.

    Pain at loss: I was a big reader as a kid, so it looked like tossing these was going to be irrationally painful until I found out about the eBooks and the kid who collects library cards.

  8. Acquired: 1999 (play the slideshow or click through to read my high school principal’s attempts to sooth worried parents.)

    In the spring of 1999, high school kids all over the country were uneasy in the wake of the Columbine shootings. Rumors of imminent violence were rampant at my high school. Some students were more on edge than others; at least one kid scurried under his desk when a mohawked friend of mine walked into class wearing a trench coat. The anxiety was pervasive enough that bomb threat pranks (mostly ignored before the tragedy in Colorado) were now being “taken very seriously” by the school administration.

    Beginning in April and continuing through final exams in June, the start of our school day was delayed at least once a month after a threatening phone call or, once, a note taped to the school’s main entrance.

    The administration usually managed to corral most of the student body onto the tennis courts, containing the teeming masses of mildly freaked out but mostly amused adolescents behind the tall chain link fence while bomb sniffing dogs canvassed the school for signs of an explosive. I was almost always wily enough to get the hell off campus before being herded into the containment zone.

    Bomb threats usually meant a de facto excused absence, so I’d spend the day truant; roaming the mall or raiding someone’s dad’s liquor cabinet. In May, in one of the nerdiest displays of teenage rebellion ever, some friends and I escaped to the movie theater to catch a morning showing of The Phantom Menace.

    No bombs were ever found. 

    Thrown away: 2011. 

    Hoarded for: Nearly 12 years.

    Pain at loss: Almost none. Digitizing bits of paper makes getting rid of them easier. I’m also beginning to I think that I kept a lot of this stuff out of habit rather than true sentimental attachment.

  9. Acquired: Late nineties.

    I doubt it, but I might have lost my virginity a little later if I’d found this pamphlet a little sooner. As it was, the purity ship was well out of the harbor by the time I plucked this list of Iowa high school students’ suggestions for sex-free lovin’ off of the brochure rack at church. 

    "Touch each other in a loving way" and "give each other sexy looks" probably aren’t all that useful if your goal is abstinence- and I’m speaking from experience here, having met some humans once. Also, just having sex might be a better alternative to "buy diamonds" or "propose marriage" if you’re sixteen. Still, I feel a little bad making fun of a pamphlet encouraging teenagers to just be kind to their paramours and not get caught up in the emotional turbulence of sex (You know. Sex, sex.) so I’ll let it be.

    But seriously, if you’re sixteen, just go ahead and have (protected) sex. Better a regrettable encounter in the back of a hand-me-down Honda Accord than a regrettable marriage. (The more you know…)

    Thrown away: 2011. I wanted to do something clever with this, like tucking it in between the pages of the Kama Sutra at Border. In the end I just tossed it in the garbage.

    Hoarded for: Oh…over a decade. I’m being intentionally vague of course, but I feel like I should point out that one of the suggestions is “Make a special tape of love songs.”

    Did I just carbon date myself?

    Pain at loss: About as little as when I did away with having a one-piece hymen (you know, with help), but I’d say the chances of regretting the loss of the pamphlet further down the line are significantly slimmer.

  10. Acquired: 1994-1998

    Yeah. That was my big Sarah McLachlan solo, leading right into another girl’s rendition of that damned Titanic song. Here’s a pile of elementary and middle school choir/drama programs, and this isn’t even all of them. I forgot that schools in North Carolina & Virginia can actually just go ahead and sing songs about Jesus during holiday concerts with little to no outcry. (Not that I think there should be outcry. I mean, if not every student’s a Christian, just keep adding songs until everybody’s included - no big. Atheists too. We can add that one song from Community; "Sennnnsible Night, approooooopriate night…")

    Eh. Glee would just rip it off.

    Thrown away: 2011. Folded up and tossed in the kitchen trash.

    Hoarded for: 13-17 years.

    Pain at loss: Not a lot, though I briefly pondered keeping the pink “Spring Concert” program, just in case my old schoolmate Maurice (soloist on ‘Let it Be’ back in 1998) blows up after his speaking role on Chuck. (Fun fact: I may have finished high school in California, but almost all the people I know who’ve had any real success so far in the cesspit that is Los Angeles are from back home. True story.) 

    Also, I’m not even really into Chuck (I’ve seen all of two three episodes), but it turns out Linda Hamilton & Timothy Dalton are involved so maybe I’ll give it another shot. 

  11. 
Acquired: 2003
In my very late post-high school teens, my solution to nearly every trial or tribulation was to drive my little Corolla aimlessly for hours on end. My long drives took me up to San Francisco, over to Barstow, and once, deeper into Mexico than any non-Spanish speaking American girl ever should have ventured alone. I kept this map in my car for three years, marking my longer hauls in purple sharpie and orange hi-lighter until the car dropped a rod a few miles north of Los Banos, a middle of nowhere truck stop town off Interstate 5. My sometime road trip parter and then boyfriend took care of having the vehicle towed to the closest Toyota dealer some 40 miles away in Merced and we hopped a train back to Orange County, leaving the car behind while I raised the money for repairs which consisted of replacing the engine entirely. I emptied the car of my personal effects before we left. When we finally made it home two trains and a bus later, I shoved my trusty map straight into a box where it’s been ever since.
This map took me all over my adopted home state, on random drives throughout the night, ill-planned manic cruises which somehow only ended in disaster the once.
Thrown away: 2011. Stuffed in the kitchen trash.
Hoarded for: 8 years.
Pain at loss: Quite a bit, actually. There was a long internal bout over this one, with my hoarder tendencies demanding that I just fold the crumpled old thing up and shove it in the glove-box of my new car because you never know versus my newfound decluttering-impulse insisting that with the advent of Google Maps, mobile internet and the Thomas Guide in the trunk, I really don’t need another bit of paper hanging around. De-cluttering won, and now this old map is partially coated with discarded bits of the pea soup we had for dinner last night.

    Acquired: 2003

    In my very late post-high school teens, my solution to nearly every trial or tribulation was to drive my little Corolla aimlessly for hours on end. My long drives took me up to San Francisco, over to Barstow, and once, deeper into Mexico than any non-Spanish speaking American girl ever should have ventured alone. I kept this map in my car for three years, marking my longer hauls in purple sharpie and orange hi-lighter until the car dropped a rod a few miles north of Los Banos, a middle of nowhere truck stop town off Interstate 5. My sometime road trip parter and then boyfriend took care of having the vehicle towed to the closest Toyota dealer some 40 miles away in Merced and we hopped a train back to Orange County, leaving the car behind while I raised the money for repairs which consisted of replacing the engine entirely. I emptied the car of my personal effects before we left. When we finally made it home two trains and a bus later, I shoved my trusty map straight into a box where it’s been ever since.

    This map took me all over my adopted home state, on random drives throughout the night, ill-planned manic cruises which somehow only ended in disaster the once.

    Thrown away: 2011. Stuffed in the kitchen trash.

    Hoarded for: 8 years.

    Pain at loss: Quite a bit, actually. There was a long internal bout over this one, with my hoarder tendencies demanding that I just fold the crumpled old thing up and shove it in the glove-box of my new car because you never know versus my newfound decluttering-impulse insisting that with the advent of Google Maps, mobile internet and the Thomas Guide in the trunk, I really don’t need another bit of paper hanging around. De-cluttering won, and now this old map is partially coated with discarded bits of the pea soup we had for dinner last night.

  12.  
Acquired: 1997/1998
Charming in its own way, The Graham Cinema is one of the few old theaters I know of that hasn’t been turned into a wedding venue or a restaurant (yet). But the real appeal of the place is the proprietor, Tim Bob, who uses the theater’s information hotline to tell (often terrible, sometimes in poor taste) jokes in his heavy Carolina drawl. I used to keep this unused, un-expired (I think) free admission ticket in my wallet. When we first moved west, sometimes I’d call the Graham Cinema hotline just to hear a southern accent.
Thrown away: 2011. I’m throwing this in the trash next week. Right now, it’s in an envelope on my desk. Since the expiration date was crossed out, there’s a decent chance this thing is still good. If you’re in North Carolina and you want (maybe) free admission to a picture show at the Graham Cinema, use the “ask” button to contact me and this sucker’s all yours.
Hoarded for: 13-14 years.
Pain at loss: None. I saved the number (area code 336) to my phone.

    Acquired: 1997/1998

    Charming in its own way, The Graham Cinema is one of the few old theaters I know of that hasn’t been turned into a wedding venue or a restaurant (yet). But the real appeal of the place is the proprietor, Tim Bob, who uses the theater’s information hotline to tell (often terrible, sometimes in poor taste) jokes in his heavy Carolina drawl. I used to keep this unused, un-expired (I think) free admission ticket in my wallet. When we first moved west, sometimes I’d call the Graham Cinema hotline just to hear a southern accent.

    Thrown away: 2011. I’m throwing this in the trash next week. Right now, it’s in an envelope on my desk. Since the expiration date was crossed out, there’s a decent chance this thing is still good. If you’re in North Carolina and you want (maybe) free admission to a picture show at the Graham Cinema, use the “ask” button to contact me and this sucker’s all yours.

    Hoarded for: 13-14 years.

    Pain at loss: None. I saved the number (area code 336) to my phone.

  13. Acquired: circa 1995
I found these weird postcards in the attic of a house we used to live in and kept them because at age 11/12 ish obviously doctored black & white photos were precisely the sort of thing I artfully tacked onto my wall. I used a bit of Google-fu to find out where they came from; some guy named Tom Sadowski (along with partner Jimmie Froehlich) did a (pre-photoshop) series of bizarrely doctored Alaskan postcards back in the early eighties. They were apparently popular enough to merit a book.
Thrown away: 2011. Want a postcard from me before I throw these out? Let me know using the “ask” button. The giant cabbages one is unavailable though, it’s got a short note to a friend back home I wrote but never sent in 2001, so it’s going to her, finally.
Hoarded for: about 15 years.
Pain at loss: None, really, other than my usual aversion to not throwing away perfectly good items even though the likelihood of my ever putting them to any sort of use is slim to none.

    Acquired: circa 1995

    I found these weird postcards in the attic of a house we used to live in and kept them because at age 11/12 ish obviously doctored black & white photos were precisely the sort of thing I artfully tacked onto my wall. I used a bit of Google-fu to find out where they came from; some guy named Tom Sadowski (along with partner Jimmie Froehlich) did a (pre-photoshop) series of bizarrely doctored Alaskan postcards back in the early eighties. They were apparently popular enough to merit a book.

    Thrown away: 2011. Want a postcard from me before I throw these out? Let me know using the “ask” button. The giant cabbages one is unavailable though, it’s got a short note to a friend back home I wrote but never sent in 2001, so it’s going to her, finally.

    Hoarded for: about 15 years.

    Pain at loss: None, really, other than my usual aversion to not throwing away perfectly good items even though the likelihood of my ever putting them to any sort of use is slim to none.

  14. Acquired: between 1997 and 2000 (view the full set on flickr or just play the slideshow.)

    The people in these bands probably didn’t save any of this stuff, but I lined my teenage bedroom walls with xeroxed show flyers. When we moved to California they all got tossed together in a box which has been hanging out in one closet or another for over a decade now.

    I kept swearing I was going to use them for a decoupage project or something, but it never happened.

    The little blue and white sticker of a guy with glasses was the logo of the now-long-defunct Poindexter Records, an independent record shop on Ninth Street, where I used to hang out. There’s an article in this set, clipped from the local paper, about the older kids loitering around Ninth Street - I saved it because a friend’s big brother was quoted, though somehow I’ve lost the scathing letter to the editor one of the kids wrote in reply. Anyway.

    The most notable non-show flyer in this set is my old friend Keith’s poster for his write-in candidacy for Junior Class President. If I recall correctly, he won the vote but wound up not serving because the girl who was officially on the ballot cried. Yay high school!

    Thrown away: 2011. Well, sort of. They’re in a pile next to my desk just in case someone from back home thinks “Well, damn, I’d actually like to have that bit of mid-nineties memorabilia!”. Totally free. Send me a message (use the “ask” link) with your mailing address and which flyer you want and I’ll mail that sucker to you. Expires next Monday (January 31), when I’ll be throwing these in the outside trash bin. Or maybe I’ll plaster them all over this little California town, just to mess with people.

    Hoarded for: 11-14 years.

    Pain at loss: I thought trashing these would be more gut-wrenching, but now that they’re curated on flickr (where the only people who will really care are folks born between 1979 and 1985 who lived in Durham/Chapel Hill in the mid-to-late nineties), getting rid of them looks like it’ll be painless.

  15. 
Acquired: circa 1996
Funny because: The first big concert I ever went to. I’ve even got the ticket stub around here somewhere. My parents and I sat waaaaay up in the sparsely populated nosebleeds, near the roof. A slightly skunky aroma wafted around in the rafters.
"Mom? Hey Mom? What’s that smell?"
"Oh, you know. Cigarettes."
Yeah. Cigarettes.
Thrown away: 2011. Burned it whilst drinking a nice Cabernet.
Hoarded for: 15 years.
Pain at loss: On scale of one to tears, it’s a fluttering feeling in my stomach. 

    Acquired: circa 1996

    Funny because: The first big concert I ever went to. I’ve even got the ticket stub around here somewhere. My parents and I sat waaaaay up in the sparsely populated nosebleeds, near the roof. A slightly skunky aroma wafted around in the rafters.

    "Mom? Hey Mom? What’s that smell?"

    "Oh, you know. Cigarettes."

    Yeah. Cigarettes.

    Thrown away: 2011. Burned it whilst drinking a nice Cabernet.

    Hoarded for: 15 years.

    Pain at loss: On scale of one to tears, it’s a fluttering feeling in my stomach.