Keep or Toss That Mom-ism?

My mom was a compulsive record keeper. Receipts, bills, lists, post-it notes, you name it – she kept. While I was cleaning out her closets and files in preparation for the sale of her apartment, I found handwritten documentation of a stock portfolio that she owned before I learned to walk and talk.

After the clean-out process was complete, I had collected half a dozen oversized trash bags of paper, dating back to the early 1980’s, that required shredding. At first, it seemed wrong or in some way disrespectful to toss away my mom’s well-organized records, but what was I going to do with a receipt for a sweater purchased at Lord & Taylor in December of 1988?

When she was alive, certain tendencies, like her habitual record keeping, rubbed off on me. I saved all my receipts until my wallet looked like it was about to explode – all the while worrying that I’d lose them and putting off the process of cross-checking the receipts against my credit card statements – the point of saving them in the first place, my mom taught. (Why then, Mom, I’d like to ask her today, did you keep the receipts for so many years afterward? But I suppose that’s a moot point.)

When I finally did empty my wallet, I gave the receipts and my statements a couple quick, cursory looks and then into the garage they went. It was more of a rubberstamp ritual than anything else. When friends asked me why I saved my receipts I would say, “my mom does it,” and shrug my shoulders.

Since her death, I’ve shaken off this practice. I review my credit card statements monthly to catch dubious charges (I admit this process could be slightly more comprehensive), and it feels great to have a reasonably sized wallet that isn’t bursting at the seams. Freeing myself of this “mom-ism” is liberating. I am my own person, and I’m excited to see what type of adult I turn into since, in some ways, her death has made space for my own practices and habits to grow.

That said, there are plenty of rituals and little eccentricities of hers that I hold on to – like the way she used to drive, fold clothes and triple-check that the front door is locked before leaving – and when I find myself mimicking my mom’s behavior, I can’t help but smile to myself. Because without my mom around, it sometimes feels good to think, “Wow, I’m becoming my mother after all.”


Does this sound familiar? Were certain practices imparted by your parents that you’ve since shed, or are you still holding on to them?


One response to “Keep or Toss That Mom-ism?

  1. Down in the basement I have four large plastic bins labeled “Toss when I die.” Subtext: Don’t even bother opening this. It’s all mom-stuff I couldn’t part with at the time but that it meaningless (and ergo worthless) to anyone else.
    Habits–now those are harder. Good for you for examining and purging where necessary!

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