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Spring Cleaning: When In Doubt, I Toss It Out

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Growing up, my favorite part of the program "Let's Make A Deal" was when Monty Hall, the game-show host, wandered into the audience and offered prizes to the first person who could produce some obscure object. The weirder the object, the greater the prize.

I always thought my mother and her purse would be unstoppable on the show. She adhered to the Scouts' motto of "be prepared" and traveled with a purse the size of a suitcase. Entire armies could be fed from the quantity of snacks my mother carried on every family outing of more than 10 minutes, and I can't think of any emergency she wasn't ready for.

I remember a back-to-school shopping trip we made to the old Ohrbach's in downtown Newark, New Jersey, when, to aid a young mother in need, my mother whipped out a cloth diaper from her purse. I was at least 10 or 11 at the time and mortified that my mother thought a diaper was something that might come in handy on our shopping trip. Her response was simple: Cloth diapers make excellent wipes, she told me, and she clearly assumed the responsibility for mopping up the world's spills. She also offered the young mom in the store bathroom some baby powder, which she also kept in her purse "just to keep certain parts fresh."

Unfortunately, our home was filled with similar "just in case" collections. While no one had a name for it then, by today's definition, my mother would probably be considered a hoarder. And it's a condition that many boomers are discovering about their own parents.

Me? I can't stand to be around clutter. I have gladly sacrificed the three seconds of joy I know I would get 20 years hence when I stumble upon my daughter's first grade report card in a box in the garage. Instead, I toss all that stuff in the garbage two days after it comes home or as soon as no one is watching me -- whichever comes first. In my house, memorabilia is limited to photographs and the occasional seriously great accomplishment, which is not every book report or diorama.

All of which got me thinking recently about the electronic debris in my life. Much of it falls under the heading of "nice to have in case of an emergency," but like the diaper in my mother's bag, odds of it being pressed into service aren't so hot.

Take my iPhone for example. It single-handedly replaced my need for a GPS system in my car. It also rendered obsolete both my iFlip and digital camera that proceded it. Bluetooth? No longer need it. For that matter, I really don't even need the car radio since my phone holds all my music. I do tune in the radio for the occasional traffic report. Oh wait, I have an app for that too.

My smart phone has replaced a multitude of devices, and created redundancies in my life.

My phone's one shortcoming is actually mine. I don't see that well anymore and while my touch screen keypad is a vast improvement over my former Blackberry's unlit keyboard, small is still small.

But, with Boomers being the last generation with any money, I have to believe the next incarnation of my iLife will accommodate the reality of iBoomers' aging vision. My Mom? She probably would be carrying extra phone chargers in her purse, just in case.