Unstuffing a Lifetime

   Fifty-nine years ago my lady and I vowed to stay together "for better or worse."  The phrase should have been  "for more or less."  Through the years we  acquired far more stuff than we needed and we now face the monumental job of getting rid of most of it.  

   For years we thought hanging on to spare furniture, picture frames, numerous sets of tableware, etc., would be helpful to children and grand-children when they set up housekeeping.  It never occurred to us they would want to acquire their own stuff to suit their own individual tastes and might not care for some of the quaint odds and ends we had hoarded.  We have all those spare things, still, vaguely hoping a need will present itself.  

   When we moved into our present house nearly forty-seven years ago we had what seemed like acres of empty space.  The house still echoes to the sounds of five children growing up in it when there was adequate elbow room.  Now their rooms are chiefly for storage of bulky odds and ends we "might need" someday.  There was the extra bureau we didn't need but was such a bargain at a yard sale we had to buy it.  There's lovely wicker furniture for which we have no room but must be kept because there may one day be a need for it.  Bulky decorative items clutter spare rooms.  There's a hoard of baskets, boxes of holiday decorations accumulated over more than a half century, not to mention the end tables and gee gaws picked up from here and there simply because they were "too good to throw away."

   The attic is filled with treasures and the cellar is stuffed with an assortment of tools, lumber, boxes, barrels, paint cans, giant vases, jars, and other containers. There are even a couple of chandeliers from somewhere that are of no use to us.  I suggested hanging them in a large tree in the back yard and turning them on at night.  My decorative idea was vetoed.  

   My kid sister is famous for her Spartan way of life.  She recently remarked, "I don't like to shop or have 'stuff' around.  I read an article once that said if you have items around the house that you don't actually USE, get rid of them."  She is very content without the burden of superfluous things and finds peace and happiness in a simple vegetarian life and her garden.  She has never held a driving license and walks miles further than most people her age.  This undoubtedly contributes to her good health. 

   There are several ways out of our dilemma.  We can do nothing and leave the chore of getting rid of our stuff to our children when we are unable to deal with it.  That strikes me as being thoughtless.  

   We could try to sell all the surplus stuff on eBay, but we don't know the mechanics of that, and shipping the bulky stuff is more than we want to deal with.  Yard sales are rarely worth the effort.  We may just toss the actual trash and load the rest of the surplus stuff into a truck and take it to a charity that specializes in converting things like that to cash for their good works. 

   It's sad, in a way, to think that all those good intentions while accumulating so much stuff led to a problem of considerable dimensions.  But we have it on good authority that we cannot take so much as a finger ring with us into the Hereafter.  Although we don't plan to make that trip in the immediate future we know it's time to start dumping our lifetime accumulation of surplus stuff.  

   I wince when I think of unloading my record collection.  There are a few genuine rarities among the 78s and some mint-condition vinyl gems.  I'm hoping that somewhere among my descendants there will be somebody with the patience to sort through the collection and maybe turn an honest dollar selling the rarities at practical prices.  

   The books are not a problem.  I've already taken two wagon loads to the public library for their "Friends of the Library" sale and a third load will be ready in a couple of weeks.  My goal is to winnow the book collection down to the ones that are most valuable to me.  With the Internet at my fingertips many of the reference books are no longer as necessary as they were several years ago. 

   The chore has begun.  It's time to part with a lifetime accumulation of things.  Somewhere between piling everything up at the curb or meticulously selling each item is the rational method of disposing of our stuff.  At the moment we're leaning heavily toward handing most of it over to charity.  

   After that comes an even more time-consuming chore.  Sorting through boxes of photos and slides.  If we don't identify the people, places and dates they will be of no interest or value to our descendants.   Recently my eye fell on a photograph from the 1930s of my wife's family and their friends at a beach in Maine.  No ID of any kind was written on the back.  I recognized most of the people and should have jotted the names and the location on it at that moment, but I set it aside on the "must do" pile.  That pile and my best intentions are in constant tension.  The pile is winning, at the moment. 

   Unstuffing a lifetime is no easy chore!  

August 21st, 2007


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