It appears that our family is going to live in one place for three years in a row, something that hasn’t happened in eight years.

I’m happy to keep the same neighbors and schools for another year or maybe more, but there is one thing I must force myself to do that I normally don’t: spring-cleaning.

Usually, I wait until we are about to move again to go through toys, lonely socks and other stuff that collects when we stay in one place for a while.

But I can’t put it off any longer, or else we won’t be able to squeeze in any new stuff.

A job that could be done in one day usually ends up taking two or three because I find things I haven’t seen in years and try to figure out if we need them anymore.

There is also the issue of timing; I have to do my sorting on the sly or else the boys and Ron will reclaim things from the Goodwill bag or out of the trash. The only way to make sure something actually gets thrown away is to put it in a garbage bag underneath something smelly on the morning that the trash gets picked up.

I begin with the hardest task first: cleaning the playroom.

There are big bins containing toys, pencils, snacks and possibly small animals tucked away in the playroom closets. Wal-Mart and Target advertise the colorful bins as "space savers," but a more accurate description would be "scary," at least where my family is concerned.

The only way to truly clean one out is to dump all the contents on the floor and throw most of it away. A mixture of water and bleach should be strong enough to clean all the gunk at the bottom of the bin.

As I make my way from bin to bin, only high-quality, age-appropriate toys will make the cut. Most of the toy cars get to stay because they’ve already been sorted through time and again until the boys and I have quite a collection of Hot Wheels.

My favorite part of cleaning the playroom is taking out the cars and imagining myself behind the wheel of its life-sized version.

Did I say age appropriate? Come on, you can’t outgrow Hot Wheels!

Less fun will be had in finally pitching those magnetic toys that were recalled last year. For some reason, instead of throwing them out, I simply put them out of the boys’ reach. Maybe I thought they were going to be "unrecalled."

This is our first duty station in 16 years to remain free of McDonald’s Happy Meal toys. That should probably fill me with a yearning for days gone by, but it doesn’t. I was getting really tired of stepping on the little things.

Like the Hot Wheels, the Legos stay in their box most of the time now, but I wouldn’t dare throw them out. Neither would I toss the Lincoln Logs or PEZ dispensers.

Now I come to the real reason why the playroom is the hardest to clean up — almost everything in there jars some sort of memory, most of them good.

Dust could collect on me while I sit there and think of the fun Jimmy, Tommy and Ronnie have had with the toys in the playroom closets.

Dust is definitely collecting on the toys, as the boys usually go down there only to play Wii or hang out with their friends.

By the time we do move, they probably won’t even allow me to call it a "playroom" anymore, at least not in front of their buddies.

Whatever the boys want to call it, that room is getting cleaned out soon, when nobody is looking and I can cruise down memory lane as long as I desire … in one of my favorite Hot Wheels, of course.

Pam Zich has moved eight times in 17 years of marriage to her Marine Corps husband. E-mail her at or find the Zichs online at

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