Everybody collects stuff during the year. The average homeowners pack it away until they are forced to clean out when they move or need to get a self-storage unit. Some people are packrats. Others, like me have stuff from forty or more years ago – personal and family heirlooms – as well as all the other memorabilia of our kids and important life milestones. Most of my space in the garage is devoted to tools, parts, and lubricants and sprays I might never use twice. Most of the space in my closets are bric-a-brac I picked up on my travels years ago. My wife collects mainly books. But she reads those cover to cover several times. The prior owner of my home told me he needed to purchase a bigger place because of all the stuff his family had acquired. I had lived most of my prior life with only what I could carry in my car. Then I started to collect stuff as I began to settle down. Could I become one of those who make do with much less? The comedian Brian Regan, in a bit I watched yesterday on Netflix, joked about the airline losing his luggage and getting a small bag of “essentials” from them to carry him through. If he had only known this was all he needed, he told them, he would not have packed this big suitcase of stuff to travel.
For Christmas, my wife and I decided that we would minimize the gift-giving to ourselves and to our kids, for things that might get use, rather than a lot of gifts for the sake of giving. Moving in a writing desk I bought my wife for Christmas, we had to move a lot of random stuff taking up space. This was an opportunity to sort through and box – and hopefully donate – all the collections of once-upon-a-time “treasures”. Sometimes these things are moved more than once a year.
When we set up a home gym early in the year, the stuff that we did not toss, we moved to the garage, and then moved to the middle bedroom. Then my son moved back in for a while. The stacks of things in the garage which had been stacked on industrial shelves looked organized for a month or two. Then stuff moved from the middle room to the garage and the office. As the home gym got less use late in the year, clutter moved into the gym room.
I lost a bag of Christmas presents I had brought into the house to hide until I wrapped them. I found some old Navy uniform items that were horribly too large – when I thought once were far too small to wear again. Some of the toys, collectibles and knickknacks my eldest son had stored with us while he was in the Army were moved out when he got married two years ago. And then there are the things that take up space for no reason whatsoever. I found that I still have about three hundred pounds of mortar in decaying bags from a project completed five years ago. I do not believe anyone will want cement, but I might put an old projection TV on the curb with a “Free” sign. It should disappear.
Meanwhile my spouse loves to buy Christmas ornaments at deep discount after Christmas. Then like this year, she finds them in random boxes while clearing out other closet treasures. We find books and magazines. Shelves piled with books and more books. She finds family photographs we planned to display a decade ago; in other places, boxes of old Christmas cards still blank and random stuff that was not gifted in past years. Then there are some good finds.
My spouse found a fifty-dollar dinner voucher which I have been tasked to find if it is still valid. Another fifty dollars in Einstein Bagel gift cards. I heard that there was a winning lottery ticket still unclaimed as the time runs out. Were we people who bought tickets, my wife would surely have found it in this season’s house cleaning. What have I found in cleaning out my closets and drawers? Random keys, odd bits, memory cards, broken watches, double-sided sticky tape, lights and an old military ID card expired for at least ten years.
I feel a little exhausted cleaning out all that stuff. Putting the garage storage back in order. Tossing out a lot of junk. Tomorrow, a trip to the Goodwill or other donation stop. Nothing like getting back to the essentials. Okay. I’m not quite living like an ascetic. But I do not require a self-storage unit for random junk I will never part with. Maybe by next year I will get down to the essentials.