Thank you, Amvets!

In big metropolises like D.C. (cough, cough), it’s a residential hazard.  No sooner have you gotten the toddler settled, the baby down for his nap, lunch in the oven, and email open than

BAM! The phone rings, and it’s a nice if leisurely call from your friendly neighborhood donation center.  “We’ll be in your neighborhood in the middle of June,” they say, choosing a date several weeks down the line, “and we would be happy to pickup your old but usable items when we pickup the donations of your neighbors.”  The spiel continues into why AmVets, The National Children’s Center, or Purple Heart, is such a great cause, but, really, any longtime D.C. resident knows the drill. 

They’re coming, and they want your stuff.

“Hmmm,” you say, caught unawares with your closet overstuffed and your donation bag empty, “Well, I don’t have anything quite yet, but by that time…  Yes, I’m sure I will have weeded the books/toys/baby clothes by then.  Yes, of course, add me to your list.”

“Thank you for supporting AmVets,” they say, and you both hang up, thoroughly satisfied with your benevolence (as if old coffeepots, new books, and those jeans from college could possibly make up for your InsertClassHere Guilt.

And then you both merrily go on your way, perhaps jotting a notation on the calendar, “8:00 AmVets,” perhaps not. 

Until the call that you know will come, but strikes fear into your heart anyway.  It’s the warning shot across the bow of your untidiness.  The reminder call, and it too comes when you least expect it, the baby settling down for bed, the toddler wanting a cookie, family dinner getting cold on the table, and the dog whining for Daddy to let him out, as if you hadn’t let him out 16 times already today.

“Good evening, it’s AmVets, reminding you that we’ll be at your house tomorrow for a pickup of your used items in good condition.”

Oh.  Drat.

They’re really coming.

And, giving a sideling glance toward the laundry room, or the playroom, the baby’s closet, or the guest room, you admit defeat.


But instead of responding like a sane person and admitting that you have fallen down on the job and not done your homework, you sign on to one more committment as yet unfilled.

“I’ll have them on the stoop by 8:00 a.m.”

And then, then my friends, the drama begins.  Which closet will be the victim this time?  Which bookshelf?  Is it time just to dump the playroom into the big white bags and call it done?

Every mom handles it differently, but for me, those last exciting hours before AmVets arrives are always the most productive for decluttering.  All of a sudden, those big white bags are calling me, and they want to be filled with our discarded and outgrown items, things that I trip over in the middle of the night, and books that no one will ever get the time to read again.  I choose an area and go to it, decluttering and organizing like a fiend, toting the lumpy bags out to the end of the driveway one by one as they fill, getting the clutter out of my house.  Helping a neighbor fill up her house.  But, most importantly, not letting that disembodied voice on the telephone down.

Next time, next time, I vow, I will have the bags ready and cheerfully chirp, “Why, yes, I have a donation ready!” when the phone rings in the middle of the night and the voice on the other end says,

“AmVets calling.”


11 Responses to Thank you, Amvets!

  1. margaret says:

    We don’t have anything like that around here, however, I am gladly putting together some items in the corner of my basement for the school’s annual flea market. And they even pickup. Goodbye glider rocker with ottoman, goodbye old couch (or two) goodbye toys, goodbye bread machine (and anything else I can find before then!).

  2. Stimey says:

    Love it. I’m guessing that this is an autobiographical story?

  3. jillaldrich says:

    Hey Susan,

    Before you drag that bag to curb, can I drop off my ABBA 8-tracks and white clogs?


  4. whymommy says:

    Yup, Stimey, this happened just this morning. You’ve successfully spread your decluttering disease over here. When there’s nothing left in the house but folding chairs, I’m blaming you. And then thanking you, cause I won’t have anything left to dust.

    And yeah. I always forget about AmVets until the night before. It’s amazing how quickly I can declutter when I need to, though….

  5. Sue says:

    Hi Susan- I just read your story in Health magazine and came to check out your blog. I admire you so much for what you’re doing to raise awareness of IBC. I only heard about it myself last year when a friend passed on an e-mail about it.

    I prayed for you last night after I read the article and I will keep on praying for you- for complete freedom from cancer, for peace and for lots of good years with your family.

  6. sprucehillfarm says:

    I can never remember to get my bags together until it’s too late. I thought I was the only one! 🙂

  7. I really need them to call me. Sadly it would be at the most inopportune time, as well. And I’d have to scramble, but hey, it’s still a great way to get rid of junk!

  8. Susan K says:


    Good for you! We seriously need to de-clutter. Seriously. Like grad school reprints and notes. And ALL the baby stuff – ’cause we are D-O-N-E done. But we have friends with babies and I want to have stuff for them to do when they come over (practically never). And you just KNOW you’ll need something the second you throw it out.

    You see the problem…

    So good for you.

  9. Mama Maven says:

    Oh I am so with you on this. One time I actually had stuff ready and it was fabulous to get it out of my house. Last time I got the naughty door hanger because, of course, I forgot!

  10. Another IBC Patient says:

    I just read your article in Health magazine and was startled to read that there is 70% chance of the cancer spreading into the other breast. When I mentioned this to my oncologist, he simply said, “That’s not true.”

    Could you please tell me where that statistic came from so I can access it and show him? I will be having my surgery in August and must decide before that whether or not to have the other breast removed.

    You are a great, brave woman!!! All the best to you!

  11. whymommy says:

    70%? That’s not what I said. The rate of recurrance for IBC patients is upwards of 90%. Most of the cases are metastasis; about 15% are cancer recurring in the other breast. By having the double mastectomy, I believe I lowered my chances of recurrence to the neighborhood of 75%.

    But please remember, this is not a medical site and I am not a medical doctor. Your treatment information should come from the American Cancer Society, IBC Foundation, or other such site overseen by medical professionals.

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