Stuff


The move back north is now complete, and we are safely ensconced in our home on Cape Cod. The lawn has been cleaned up. The pool is being opened today. The cherry trees are just beginning to bloom, and everything is starting to feel fresh and new. And then I opened the garage. Where did all of this stuff come from? Same thing in the basement. Did all of this crap just reproduce itself while we were in Florida? There are piles of stuff everywhere. We don’t have that in Florida because we’ve made a real effort not to buy “stuff.” Not so on Cape Cod. Here we’ve both accumulated decades of stuff we just couldn’t bear to throw away even if we never use it. I think Louise is a little more to blame than I am. When I got divorced in 2007 I left most everything behind. It was very cathartic to leave with a minimum of stuff. I have added to my stuff since then, but if I hadn’t gotten divorced I might be buried under it by now. The Queen of Quite a Lot (not my phrase; she actually has a sign in the kitchen claiming this as her title) and I have discussed this problem, and we’ve decided to start getting rid of “stuff.” Here’s the plan: One weekend we’re going to invite all of the kids and spouses to come and claim what they want. There’s a lot of great stuff; just in tools alone we have enough to open a new Sears store. Don’t ask me why, but we have three table saws, two drill presses, two chop saws, a couple of skill saws, and a stack of hand saws. I haven’t cut any wood in the last fifteen years, but if I ever feel the urge, I have plenty of saws. Between my collections and her ex-husband’s tools we have enough wrenches to make four or five complete sets in both inches and metric. I’ve counted over one hundred screwdrivers. I’ll never run out of hammers and I have enough grinders to sharpen axes for the next two hundred years. We have two large metal tool cabinets that actually have tools in them. I haven’t opened any of the drawers in more than a decade. Two of the drawers are locked, and the key has long since gone missing. Lord knows what might be in there. I have electrical tools, but I don’t do any electrical work. I have boxes of plumbing tools, but now I call the plumber. I have everything I need to install wallboard throughout the house, but I’m never going to do that. Don’t even ask me about painting supplies. I think you’re starting to get the idea of what needs to go. For the past eight years Louise has been saving the plastic pots that plants come in from the garden center. For a while she has had a green house that didn’t get used, so she recently traded it to a neighbor in exchange for free eggs. Now she has hundreds of pots but no greenhouse. She talked with a friend of hers who could use the pots and promised to bring them to her. When I saw the look on Louise’s face I knew there was a problem. She didn’t want to give up her pots. I asked if she was planning on ever using them again and she said no. Apparently that didn’t matter, because she still didn’t want to give them up. Finally, I suggested that she give half of them to her friend and keep the other half until she felt comfortable letting them go. This turned out to be the perfect solution, and half of the pots are on their way to a new home. The truth is that I’m no better. Many years ago I decided that I was going to build guitars. Making guitars require lots of very specialized tools, and I have all of them. I actually did build most of one, but I could never get the neck to fit right and I gave it up. I’m never going to make another guitar, but I’ve never been able to bring myself to get rid of all of these incredible tools. I even have pouches of pigments for creating stains for the body. I have polishing clothes and compounds for preparing finishes. I have boxes of electronic parts for electric guitars that will never be used again. To show you how crazy it is, I have a box of guitar wiring from the 1960s, in case I ever have to work on a vintage guitar and the wiring will need to match. I have two boxes of guitar pickups from the 1960s and 1970s for repair work that I’m never going to do. And let’s face it: do I really need to have twenty two guitars when I can only play one at a time? After the kids have their pick of our stuff, it’s going into one of three piles: throw away, donate, and yard sale. Anything left after the yard sale will go in the throw away pile. At least that is the plan. I really wonder if we have the strength to just get rid of all these things we haven’t used in years. I think it’s more likely that we’re going to need to buy a bigger house.


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