Monday, July 18, 2005

Self examination of a pack rat

Why did I keep an empty Visine bottle? Why do I have baby clothes? What purpose does it serve to keep splintered pieces of an old wooden table from forty years ago?

Self-examination is at a new high as I struggle to pack my belongings and move them August 3rd. (closed circuit message to all my local friends - I said AUGUST THIRD, a Wednesday, 8 AM. There will be beer) I spent Sunday afternoon fumbling through stacks of boxes and piles of litter, trying to decide if they serve a purpose.

The table to which I'm referring was made by my Grandfather, from triangular pieces of scrap 2x4 left over from the building of a house in the 60's. The legs have since fallen off, leaving nothing but the scratchy round table top, and I keep lugging it from house to house and sitting it in the dark, damp corner of my basement. I suppose the sentimental value motivates me, although I have two other pieces he made which are far superior and still quite beautiful. I think it's time for the table to... go.

That was hard to say.

I still have boxes of baby clothes, although I have no intention of siring another offspring. They are kept as a memory of my daughter's childhood... but it's not like I pull them out periodically and admire them, they haven't seen daylight in 10 years. Surely saving one favorite outfit as a reminder and taking the rest to Goodwill would be the right thing to do. Yet. The box sits in the basement collecting airborne particulate matter. This will be another tough decision.

I spied a big blue suitcase in the corner, pulled it out and reacquainted myself with it's contents. Inside, among other things, were my Grandparents wedding pictures, some of my Grandmother's old jewelry, newspaper clippings from the 1940's, a photo album of my Grandfather's years in the Army at Pearl Harbor, (yes, he was there on December 7, 1941) and a flag with 48 stars. Lying sprawled on the cold basement floor, I was overcome with emotion going through that old suitcase. After having a good cry, I carefully resealed it for another few years.

Then there are the two "marriage" boxes. Pictures, keepsakes, memorabilia from each failed partnership. I suppose keeping them is a way of telling myself those years weren't a waste. The thought of adding a THIRD box is more depressing than I can tell you, so I'll move on to...

The "junk drawer." Or should I say drawers. Full of things I thought I would need, the most puzzling item was an empty Visine bottle. I guess perhaps I fantasized I could fill it with something else and use it again. Fifty pens, twelve tweezers and other personal grooming devices, receipts, batteries, paper clips, change, a live marmoset (just seeing if you were paying attention), four kinds of tape, remote controls, FIVE old cell phones, a garage door opener I thought I'd lost...

Wow, I can't believe how much shit I've accumulated. This has been a real eye-opener.

Why do we do this to ourselves? I'm not nearly the worst example, some people are addicted to collecting "things." In fact, I know a lady who drives from yard sale to garage sale to rummage sale, buying crap she doesn't need and storing it in space she doesn't have. It's not enough for her to collect her own stuff, she collects other people's junk too.

So ENOUGH of the pack-rat syndrome, I'm turning over a new leaf. I believe I will rent one of those dumpsters, park it in the driveway for a week and purge. If I haven't used it in the past five years, it GOES. I can likely reduce the overall mass of my worldly possessions by half.

Anyone need a legless wooden table?


OldHorsetailSnake said...

Listen, Dave, here's what you do:

Give everything to the Salvation Army. Then, if you ever need it, you can buy it back. Hell, let THEM store it for awhile.

paula said...

Dave, I know what you mean. Recently Mike and I have been cleaning out closets and rooms, finding things I didn't even know I had. I fear the city is going to start charging me extra for all the crap that they have had to haul away from me.

Let me talk to Mike and see if we can help out in Aug.


Chris Cope said...

Fill the Visine bottle with booze.

Lee Ann said...

I have found that is the one positive thing about moving. I found so much stuff, and threw most of it away. It feels better to lighten the load.

smays said...

For goodness sake, scan any photos or clippings from the Pearl Harbor material and add them to your Fotki stash. No need to let them turn to dust or get tossed when you can share them with the world.

Amandarama said...

I know I have things here from when I moved that are old and unnecessary, like clothes that don't fit and an amplifier that really should be retired because anything that comes out of it sounds like a Satanic fart. And they'll probably come with me when I eventually move out of here.

I'm frankly surprised that Mr. Scoop didn't find a body when we packed him up to move two weeks ago.

Chris Johnson said...

I have saved baby clothes. One box per kid. I will never have anymore kids but, I thought it would be nice to give those boxes to the kids. So hold on to Courtney's stuff a few more years, and when she reaches that age, give them to her, it is a keepsake of her childhood.

Mags said...

I don't know if this is a CA-only thing, but apparently you can set something up on wherein you post the junk you have, and if someone wants it, you arrange with them to have it picked up - you don't even have to see them - you can pick a random street corner or something. My friend has gotten rid of a whole bunch of stuff through there.

Weary Hag said...

You see, there are real reasons why people like us don't share houses, Dave. I have a large closet in our spare room jam-packed with exactly the type of things you speak about here. Then there's the basement that has three huge plastic bins marked "shit that's just too sentimental to part with." I have junk drawers with stuff inside that makes me just shake my head and wonder "what WAS this?"
And Mags is right ... is a great option (clearly, for someone other than me)

Weary Hag said...

On a more positive note, Don Aslet's "Clutter's Last Stand" is a great book filled with ways to de-clutter your life. He's also quite comical at times and it's a good read in general. Pick up a copy. When I first got mine in the early 80s, I de-cluttered my entire place in a month and felt so refreshed. I guess I never got to the last chapter on how not to let it happen again.

Rob Seifert said...

I too have collected enough shit to resonably call myself an outhouse. Some of it hasn't seen the light of day in years. I too have broken furnature that I haul from house to house, old photographs, and keepsakes that only I understand. I secretly hope for a fire to consume it all so that I can get free of it, mourn it, and start over.

I've now cleaned out two houses of dead or dying relatives and it's clear that I come by this trait honestly. I feel physical pain with every item I discard. Even on those occasions where I've managed to throw or give things away sometime, years later, I find myself looking for that very item until I sadly remember that it is no longer numbered among my things.

I feel your pain. Keep up the fight!