| In five years, working diligently but unconsciously with my daughters and soon-to-be-ex-wife, we filled the basement and garage with stuff.
I'm selling my house so now I have to clean it out. Today my daughters and I started the task. In six hours we found: six boxes of stuffed animals; twelve boxes of books; five family Bibles; ten boxes of photographs ranging from 19th century daguerreotypes to 21st century snapshots; two boxes filled with unused picture frames; and one full of unused greeting cards.
There were also three plastic tubs filled with American Girl dolls, eight filled with "Muffy" dolls and doll clothes, and two filled with my daughters' baby clothes. Beyond that I have no idea how many boxes of middle school and high school memorabilia my daughters found and dumped straight into trash bags.
And that's just the beginning. Imagine what we'll find tomorrow.
|My urge to keep stuff began as I grew up. My parents instilled a profound (and self-centered) sense of history in me. I was a birthright Quaker, born into the same Friends meeting that my great-great-great-great-great-great grandfather helped found in 1716. Growing up, antique heirloom clocks, chairs, tables, and silverware were used daily. The closets were filled with crumbling leather-bound books, including copies of The Journal of George Fox and The Journal of Edward Hicks, figures prominent in Quaker history. The holiest relic was a Quaker bonnet kept in its original hat box from the early nineteenth century.
Through this warped lens, everything becomes historically significant. In a hundred years, the broken Kitchenaid mixer in the basement will provide a profound understanding of early 21st century home economics. Those ticket stubs from the Red Sox spring training game against the Twins, lying in my dresser drawer since March, 1999, might someday have the significance of Isaac Liebowitz' grocery list. With such potential value, how can I part with anything?
Since my wife moved out, my house, now sparsely furnished, reminds me of the dormitories at the Canterbury NH Shaker Village.
I recently befriended Doris, a watercolor painter with a large funky house filled with visual delights: paintings, sculpture, a fiberglass sailfish, a mantlepiece imported from England, and a host of other magnificent oddities and curios. Walking through her house is the visual equivalent of eating Thanksgiving dinner and I savor the sensory feast when I visit. Once home, the meal causes indigestion and my arms and legs feel like lead as I imagine the enormous weight of her possessions. I can feel my bias shifting, slowly. The lightness of my new "Shaker simplicity" feels better every day.
Imagine what I'll throw out tomorrow.