It seems that every time I turn around there is more junk around our house. It’s nice junk, don’t get me wrong, but what are we going to do with all of this stuff?
I guess I’ve spent my life collecting accouterments. Sets of china, tables, couches, dressers, appliances, books, rugs, in short no end of stuff we just have to have. Well, here we are thinking about moving on and our biggest problem is all this stuff. Rooms full of it, a whole house full as a matter of fact.
The boys don’t want most of it, they want the chance to get their own junk. It used to be you saved furniture for future generations. What I’ve found out is they will not thank you for it, and may even stop taking your calls. Great aunt Bess’s three hundred ton armoire is your problem, deal with it.
It’s not only furniture, it’s all the other stuff being saved “for the future.” I recently found a jar of screws, preserved for potential usefulness by my first wife’s grandfather. It took all my will, but I closed my eyes and tossed it away. Then I got it back out of the trash and recycled the jar and threw the screws away. It was exactly that kind of old world “never waste anything” attitude that is burying me today. It’s great that you lived frugally and efficiently bGrandpa, but why did you leave all this crap behind?
When I first became a single parent, I went through the house lightly and began to either pack up or throw things away. Throw pillows, bric-a-brack, old toys, old towels, things with pieces missing, even some furniture. The place was cluttered and since I now had to do all the cleaning and maintenance, I cleared the decks.
The next serious purge came when my second wife moved in. She had her own house-full and she brought every stick of it to mine. We got one of those steel frame tent garages and put in in the back yard for the overflow. Then we started to toss and donate anything that we didn’t use on a regular basis. The peak in my living room is just under 14 feet. When we started, there were about six inches of space between that and the boxes. The cat loved it.
We crawled and sidled through all the boxes for about 3 months, until we’d gotten through enough to actually see across the room. Two months later all the boxes were gone, but the tent garage was still full. All 25 by 10 by 12 of it was jammed with boxes and furniture we didn’t know where else to put. That tent wasn’t finally cleared out until after a very wet snowstorm put 8 inches of mush on it and squished it like a bug. But we did get through it all and had pared down to a livable level. The local mission was crushed that we weren’t coming every week any more.
Although my wife and I took turns having the broken heart of the day, there were some things that we just couldn’t bare to part with, which is the reason we have two food processors and cabinets jammed with expensive pots and pans. The house still seems jammed, especially with 5 people, 4 cats (don’t ask) and a dog. With the upcoming “transition,” (that’s what we’re calling it so as not to upset the kids, who need to get the hell out and take their junk with them) we will have to pare down further. Probably further than my wife expects, who uses the word “Storage” much too loosely.
These things aren’t our life, they are the detritus of life. The flotsam and jetsam of existence on planet earth. I was once horrified at the thought of getting rid of my library. Over 6 thousand volumes collected personally over 50 years, mostly paperbacks from second hand book stores, neatly shelved and terribly impressive (for paperbacks). I don’t miss them, they’re all available electronically anyway, mostly for free. By the way, no one accepts book donations around here, except the Lupus foundation, who grinds them up for recycling.
As it turns out I also had in one place or another over 20 computer systems, relics of a long and varied career. They sat in racks, in boxes, under tables and in the garage. CPM progenitors of the Information Age, Apple II’s, a wide variety of early and late model PCs, laptops and even a Sun workstation. Out they all went, but not the Sun, I mean seriously! Some ideas take more time to get used to. Now I’m happy with just my iMac (well, perhaps there are a just few more around).
But they and many other things will have to make way for the future and go into the black plastic bags of destiny. I wish we could sell all of this stuff, but it’s actually financially better to donate and take it off on taxes. This stuff is old, used and not worth much. I’ve been shocked several times when my treasured “pieces” were received with derision by the folks at the mission, just before they offered to throw them away for me.
That’s always a good reminder of intrinsic value, which very little of this stuff has. There are other kinds of value though. However, those other kinds fade quickly when paying storage fees. As I’ve come to understand keeping an “heirloom” for future generations just means no one else in the family has room in their garage. We’ve started a campaign of pressing these items on relatives when they come for a visit. Sometimes, we don’t even ask, just slip them in their car when they’re not looking. It’s a special treat for when they get home.
The most shocking of all the junk realizations is that your progeny would rather sit on bare floors than your old living room set, even with the “almost new” $6000 recovering that still hurts to think of. Oh, they might take a table or even a lamp or two, just to be polite, but we’ll all be very disappointed if we’re expecting a family feud over our furniture treasures. In fact the only things they usually want are the things you actually want to keep. Although we’re sure our precious children feel as we do about our things, in actual reality they don’t. They grew up with all this stuff, and that was plenty. Besides, their wives, husbands or partners have their own ideas about what’s nice and their own families slipping things in their car when they visit.
Our goal is to have no more than what would fit in a two bedroom apartment when we are done. It will be a long, difficult, heart wrenching struggle to pare what we have down to that size. Even though I suspect it might be more fun to bag it all and buy new things instead. However, that’s not the American way. The morals and precepts of our native culture demand that we move all this junk to the new apartment and throw most of it away when we get there. That’s tradition for you.
Copyright Prentiss Gray 2011