Thursday, December 18, 2008

Stuff, as in Too Much Of It

Once in a while, if I wake up around 3 a.m., I start thinking about all the stuff I have in this house, and what I am going to do about it. I envision renting a Dumpster, opening a window and throwing, throwing, throwing until the dumpster is full. Then I think, wait a minute, some of that stuff is probably worth something, and also that some of that stuff belongs to my far away children, as well as those close by. I have told them that I am not running the Burnell Museum of Childhod Stuff. And I know that they also have vast collections of stuff where they live, too.

Most of it is my own stuff, of course. I have in my living room three antique pieces of furniture: an old school master's desk, a pie cupboard, and a washstand. They are all full of stuff: LPs, videos, photographs, family letters, scrapbooks, and odds and ends. That's just the living room. I have two closets full of clothes. I always wear the same things, and most of the other clothes are things I might wear some day. And twice a year I send bundles of clothes to the Vietnam Veterans clothing drive. I have shoes and shoes, which seem to breed.

I don't consider my books stuff. They are sacred, even though they are in every room. I have taken some to the library for their book sales, but most of those are books I bought for research when I was writing in the pre-Google days. I have pledged not to buy any more children's books and have avoided the Antiquarian Book Fair for the last 4 years. I have reference books I could probably get rid of. I don't think I really need the World Book Encyclopedia I bought for the kids back in the 60s - or the the Britannica I bought at a yard sale many years ago. (It's not that valuable edition of the early 20th century anyway - the 15th edition? )

The worst collection of stuff is in the basement. There's a cupboard under the stairs which contains God knows what. I do know that there is a copy of the Atlanta Journal from December, 1939 containing an account and pictures of the premiere of "Gone With the Wind," when all those real movie stars came and paraded down Peachtree Street in open convertibles, and my sister and I got to see them all. I guess I snagged it when my mother was getting rid of her stuff. I haven't seen it for a long time, because there is a lot of stuff in that cupboard: toys from the 50s and 60s that are no doubt collectible, but which no one wants to go through or get rid of. And there's a closet down there that has a lot of things in it which no one remembers. Oy! Sometimes I feel like Miss Havisham without the wedding dress or cake.

I made a small start this Christmas. I am giving recycled things to my family as gifts. Nothing ratty or awful, just things that I don't use but that they may enjoy, and that are small enough that they won't add to their own piles of stuff. I think of all those people frantically shopping at this moment, getting stuff for people who don't need it. I mean, we all like to give and recive, but we have become inundated with stuff, those of us lucky enought to have a place to put it. We live in a consumer economy and we certainly do consume a lot of stuff. There must be a better way to manage.

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