Stuff

Cobalt blue glass
in the morning sun makes me happy.

It’s slow going, but I’m on a mission to transform the barn from a repository of all the stuff I’ve ever owned to just stuff I love.

I’m never going to be a minimalist – cultural artifacts interest me far too much and I’m far to sentimental.  I shocked myself when I began giving away and tossing stuff I’ve schlepped from house to house, city to city, and state to state during the nomadic period of my misspent youth.   Out went the ugly side table I’ve hung onto from the early it-doesn’t-matter-how-ugly-it-is-if-it’s-cheap-enough days of home decorating.  I’ve moved that thing 11 times, because I might need it someday.  Out went the jello molds.  I don’t even like jello.  Out went the bedspread that made me frown every time I crawled into bed.  Out went the George Foreman grill that my son, now known as Chef Boy ‘R Mine, would be embarrassed about.  He gave it to me for Christmas one year.  I didn’t use it, but kept it for sentimental reasons.   Now that he’s into haute cuisine, I was able to keep the memory and KO George without hurt feelings.  I did keep, and still treasure, the old Campbell’s soup can transformed into a pencil holder through the application of bits of tissue paper, glitter and glue by Chef Boy ‘R Mine when he was a first-grader.
 
The hurt feeling thing’s a complicated issue.  We’ve all got that stuff hanging around that we don’t like, don’t want, don’t use, but can’t get rid of because Great Aunt Gertrude will ask, on her next visit, “Where’s the plastic canvas needlepoint tissue holder I gave you last year?”  I don’t have an answer to that except to say that I’m getting old enough now that the Great Aunt Gertrudes of my life are so old that visits involve my going to a personal care facility or seances.  As for friends and their gifts, we’ve all seemed to reach this developmental stage at roughly the same time.  And I do think it’s a developmental stage – at least for women.  It seems to begin when the kids (or husbands) start leaving home.  After a suitable mourning (or celebratory) period, we put our hands on our hips, survey the kingdom, and announce to ourselves “Well, that can go.”   Sometimes it begins when we trip over the stupid cement goose that’s still decorated for Easter on the Fourth of July for the 85th time that day.  (Not that I’ve ever owned a cement goose, but I know people.)  I have a friend who every time someone brings something into her house, she makes them take something out.  (I tried to take the candlabra that hangs over her dining room table, but evidently not everything in her house is up for grabs.) 
 
Once I got going on giving and pitching, I decided to continue until every single thing in my 2400 sq. ft. of home was here because I love it or use it.  I was making great progress until I hit the Closets-I-Am-Afraid-Of
 
When the barn was being remodeled, we built a closet 16 x 8 to compensate for not having an attic, basement or barn.  We knew it was woefully inadequate from the start, but it was better than nothing.  When that filled up, the coat/furnace closet was doubled in size.  By the time that filled up, I had hit the developmental stage.  I tackled the smaller coat closet early on, but a lot of the crap went into the other closet.  I am now terrified to even open the door.
 
I can’t progress much further until I conquer this fear.  There’s stuff in this house scattered about that I need or use, but am tired of tripping over that could go into that closet if the circa 1970 fan, algebra notebooks, broken lamps, cross stitch patterns, deflated basketball, threadbare sheets, egregious holiday ornaments, transistor radio and other sheer junk was removed – not to mention the stuff that Has-Promise-And-I-Can-Do-Something-To-Which-Will-Involve-Great-Quantities-Of-Time-And-Effort-And-Money-That-I’m-Never-Going-To-Actually-Do.  And that’s just the crap i can see.  I haven’t seen the back of the closet since 1992.
 
If I ever do conquer that closet, I can start on the books – hundreds and hundreds of books.  I still have not one, but two copies of my high school trig textbook as well as tomes that I wouldn’t read a second time even on a dare. 

8 Comments

Filed under August 2008

8 responses to “Stuff

  1. Douglas B. Hanson

    My stuff consists largely of books. I have a house overflowing with books, many of which I hope to gradually release once I have learned that “I CAN LET GO”. The thing about books is that they are difficult to take with you. During my Living-Out-Of-A-Ryder-Truck ™ days, I was young and could manage many boxes of books. But now I have reached the age when it may be time to let go. I have libraries lined up for my specialty collections and collectors lined up for my first editions. I will probably keep my leather-bound collection as these are books I tend to read over and over again. Any of you interested in books? Let me know

  2. Jes

    Are you familiar with this blog: http://unclutterer.com/ I read it for inspiration. I need it. I’m scared to even pass my storage unit, let alone open it. I know aliens are living there.

  3. It is frightening. That is a good site. They recommend a Sony e-Reader or a Kindle-like reader to help avoid additional book clutter.

  4. wvfurandroot

    Ah, Jes, thank-you. I’ve got favorite blog links on 4 different computers and I’ve yet to consolidate them. Unclutterer is one of my favorites – kind of – it both inspires me and disinspires me. Some of the photos are so spare and so utilitarian I cringe. BUT I love the idea of a “charging station” and the other cord taming ideas.

    Connie

  5. Lynda Ann

    “Stuff” is more than a personal problem–it’s symptomatic of a materialist culture on steroids. When I lived in Tanzania I discovered how little stuff I needed and, indeed, was ashamed of how much stuff I had relative to the folks around me. When I returned after 11 months on Africa I almost got physically sick the first time I went to a mall.

    And yet, re-entering America-on-junk I was soon back into similar personal patterns. But can you really function today without a cell phone? I do believe, however, that libraries are a god-send for the book problem–you just return them. On the other hand, my husband wants to be able to mark them, turn down the pages, and keep them forever under his bed. So he buys the books.

    Now we are moving and it’s not just a question of clearing up–we have no choice but to get rid of lots and lots of stuff, including books. I have discovered, however, that if you bring boxes of books to donate to the library they might overlook the fines on the books that spend several months under a bed.

    And, speaking of stuff, we can’t do these blogs if we don’t have a digital camera, the cords to hook them in, the cards to hold the data, the batteries to run them…..more stuff!

    Lynda Ann

  6. Angie

    After you move children 16 times in 5 years, you end up with ‘stuff’ they no longer want, in addition to your ‘stuff’. The ‘stuff’ is easier than the pets!
    Angie

  7. I dunno, Connie. There’s lots of potential trauma attached to getting rid of stuff. Trust me. Three years after a severely downsized move, I am still suffering almost daily because I miss something that was dear to me but didn’t fit in the trailer.

    And Lynda Ann? When my ex-husband and I moved from Germany to California, I had the movers wrap and box some red bricks. Because I didn’t know that y’all have bricks in America. So, the “stuff issue” isn’t something uniquely American (but I’ll admit that I’ve expanded my stuff issue expertise greatly over the years here.)

  8. wvfurandroot

    Ira, I respect your feelings on this, but I wonder…at the time you downsized were you ready to de-stuff or was it foisted upon you?

    I felt imprisoned by it. As I slowly get rid of the stuff that I don’t love, don’t need and/or don’t use, I find the remaining stuff more enjoyable.

    As a military brat, my amount of stuff was limited as a child; and each subsequent move involved a culling that was sometime painful – either as it was happening or years later.

    Connie, still mad about a dress that went missing between 4th and 5th grade

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