I clung doggedly to my pack-rat tendencies until my third child came along and jolted me out of my sentimental attachment to stuff. Suddenly it was all just clutter. But from the hundreds of items that I resolved to donate to Goodwill, I held back several (okay, several dozen) that I couldn't bear to part with—the stuffed cotton carrot that one of my sons had gummed endlessly as an infant, the wooden farm animals that once roamed, free-range, on our living room floor. I didn't want them underfoot, but I wasn't coldhearted enough to get rid of them. What I needed was a plan C.

So I turned them into Christmas ornaments. I owe credit for this idea to an old friend who used to transform the beautiful little items he found at flea markets into ornaments using floral wire. Floral wire is dark green and easy to twist around an evergreen branch, and you can loop it just as readily around a tiny bear's paw as you can around the body of a nice tin racecar.

The ancient Greeks believed that when heroes died, they became constellations, residing for all eternity in the sky. That's kind of what it's like at my house now with old toys. When they die, they go someplace glorious and bright, where they can be gazed upon and admired—but just for a month. Come January, I'm happy to see them go.

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