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How Did I Accumulate So Much Stuff?

Saturday, February 12, 2011, 19:52 EDT Leave a comment Go to comments

Moving day is fast approaching, and as I pack up my life, I am amazed and appalled by how much junk I have.

First, a little background. I have lived at the same address for more than 23 years. Having just graduated from college when I first moved in, I didn’t have a lot. Apartment living was fine, at least at first.

Over the years, though, I began to feel that I was outgrowing the space. I was convinced that lack of attic and cellar was to blame, not to mention a dearth of closet space. Silly me.

Now that I am going through it all, I realize how wrong I was. True, an attic and cellar would have made it easier to store, out of the way until needed, seasonal items like beach chairs and Christmas decorations. But the biggest reason I was overrun in my own apartment was because I never threw anything away.

It would have been tempting to just box everything up and take it to the new house, which has both an attic and a cellar. But I knew instinctively that if I didn’t de-junk my life now, I never would, and the accumulation of stuff would only continue, magnifying the problem until the day when my heirs would be stuck doing what I wouldn’t, and cursing my dead bones while they were at it.

Lest you think I’m exaggerating, allow me to share a partial list of some of the things I have kept for these many years:

  • A photocopier I got used from an old employer. It came in handy to copy orders and invoices when I was a professional calligrapher, something I haven’t done in about 13 years.
  • An artificial Christmas wreath decorated with glass balls, some of which had broken and I was determined to replace. I didn’t want to throw it away because it was my grandmother’s. She died ten years ago.
  • Clothes, lots of them, from two sizes ago. I figured that keeping them would motivate me to go back to Weight Watchers, even though some of them are too outdated to wear any more.
  • Multiple half-finished knitting projects and enough yarn to finish them, but mysteriously without the patterns. Can’t finish the projects without the patterns.
  • Stacks of photographs that were stuck together from when the landlord was having the house re-roofed and re-sided and a hurricane came through and the ceiling above my desk leaked all over the box of photos. I have no idea what I thought I would do with those.
  • A broken boom box that belonged to my other grandmother who died about seven years ago. I thought I’d get it fixed. Yes, I know. Nobody uses boom boxes any more.

I could go on, but why embarrass myself further?

Of course, there are a few things I had forgotten I kept that I will hang onto for sentimental reasons: the yellowed paper with the “What Christmas Means to Me” essay that my son wrote in elementary school for a contest (he won first prize), a toddler-sized quilt made by my great-grandmother, my college graduation tassel. I even found a small box in which came a Hummel figurine that was a Christmas gift from the love of my life many moons ago. He bought it at Birks, a swanky Canadian jeweler. Even though the figurine has been wrapped and packed elsewhere, I’m holding onto that box.

The only good thing about keeping stuff is that I had lots of shipping cartons from various mail-order and online purchases, and I am now making good use of them. But after I unpack, I think I’ll put them out with the recyclables.

Then I will resolve to no longer be a pack rat. This de-junking thing is cathartic, but once is enough.

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