Get off of your duff and get rid of your stuff

February 18, 2021


Congratulations are in order. My husband and I finally got rid of our mini-warehouse storage unit. We feel like free spirited children skipping through a meadow tossing daisy petals in the air.  

Americans are champions of excess. “We might just need this someday” is the battle cry of society, as if we’ve come through some kind of depression where everyone was starving for junk. 

Gardening tools, the old baby crib, grandmother’s sewing cabinet, it was all there with a beautiful sofa, rocking chair and Christmas decorations we just didn’t have room for now, but may just be able to use … someday. 

My teaching materials labeled, “small motor skills,” “literacy,” and “Shel Silverstein” were arranged in a file cabinet just in case I had to spring back into action in a classroom. I had no intention to ever teach again, but after so much work, who could toss them?

A mass of storage units are being constructed close to our neighborhood and it has to be the ugliest thing I’ve ever seen. Other countries build colosseums and fountains, and we build mini-storage units. A second “stor-it-all” is going up within a stone’s throw and it was just announced a former Food World would be divided and used for storage. How much “stuff” do people in this town have? 

The excess sneaks up on you. The children grow up, but you can’t possibly get rid of the Legos. You know you’ll use the baby crib again for grandchildren. The exercise machine doesn’t fit in this house, but the kids will be glad to have it someday. The lamps were grandmother’s and I know a lamp repairman — if I could only find his number.  The next thing we know, we’re at Stuff-N-Shove Warehouse trapped beneath a mattress, bar stools and a box of Tonka trucks.

When Bob and I added up how much money we’d spent on storage over the years, it rivaled college tuition, vacations and movie popcorn for the past two decades. It didn’t matter we also used our storage for business equipment, the madness had to end. 

“It’s too hot to be in here” I told Bob. “Just drink some water and keep going” he sweetly suggested. “What’s this?” “It’s your mother’s scrapbook, don’t open it, it’ll fall apart.” “Why do you need this box of sequins?” “the same reason you need this box of hinges.”  “I think that crazy girl I dated gave me this book.” “Be more specific, they were all crazy.” 

“Listen to these papers I wrote in grad school. I used to be smart until giving birth fried my brain.” “We don’t have time for you to sit and read them now.” “Humph! Your creative engagement in problem solving barely reflects the cognitive functional theories of Dr. Parnes.” 

Truckload by truckload, it was scaled down to a small pile of nice things to donate. The trouble was none of the regular donation centers were accepting items due to COVID-19. We paid for yet another month of rent and clenched our teeth at night. It was bittersweet when the truck finally hauled away the remaining treasures. Our warehouse full of plans and dreams, were now a memory. Except for the Legos. I have them shoved in a guest room closet next to Thomas the Tank Engine. 

This story first appeared in Advance Publication Newspapers

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  1. So true! I’ve been clearing out for the past year. Partly our stuff, plus the items left by my mom & brother. A friend recommended the book “The Swedish Art of Death Cleaning”, that I found both entertaining and validating.
    Congratulations, we deserve it.

    1. Yes, congratulations to you. The book sounds very interesting. It’s hard enough to rid ourselves of our own things, but to get rid of other’s things left to us is doubly difficult. Thanks for the book tip, and good going to you!

  2. Save those Hot Wheels, Legos, and wooden trained for the future grands. They will love them and you will be glad you did. Books, too.

    1. My husband and I always debated the deep question of which hurt more, stepping on a lego in the middle of the night or an upside down Hot Wheel? Good advice from you that I love!

  3. Congrats! I keep telling myself I need to purge…but don’t seem to get around to it…I am at the point of writing a letter to my children telling them that I’m sorry they have to deal with so much stuff! I have enough china to open a store! I will say my grands play with Fisher Price toys that I’ve saved and I do have a huge can of hot wheels that they love…

    1. So, what I’m understanding from my readers is, it’s okay to save something if a grandchild can play with it. Hmmm. Couldn’t they play with all of those old dishes? And the sofa? And the computer parts??? – Trying!

  4. I feel like I have been on a decluttering mission for years. When a parent passes that is hard enough but then going through all the stuff. Emotions are tied up in that happy and sad. I finally feel like this year when I started on January 2nd going through every closet and drawer I had made some true progress. It has only taken 7 years of talking myself into getting rid of stuff. I still have a few more items to let go of, but I am in a much better place. I did have a storage unit for my teaching stuff at one point. That was hard culling through. There was so much work in there. I am happier with less now, though. I will never be a minimalist but I am lighter these days.
    Now, when I walk through what is called antique shops I always feel a bit melancholy. They are basically all the stuff of the 80s and 90s when we did do everything in excess.

    1. Sandy, I know exactly how you feel. We had to get rid of so many things from my parent’s house and it all happened so quickly, I really do regret a few of the things now. Overall, it does feel good to be “lighter” and free of the excess, but just because we get rid of the object doesn’t mean the memory will be gone.

  5. I totally agree with you about the storage companies multiplying like rabbits! You will be glad you kept the Legos though. I have a picture of my precious grandson sitting in a giant tub of Lego pieces that were once the joy of his daddy. Love it!!

  6. We are going through cupboards, closets and attics now preparing to downsize. We are both the only siblings left so we have the keepsakes of our families as well. Two granddaughters are the recipients of the family histories but so much did get thrown. I lived in the past for a week looking at faded photos and memories. Lots of sneezing and some tears.

    1. Good for you. It’s a passage that is harder than it seems to most. Get ready for what I’m dealing with now . . . regret. Why did I ever let mother sell my ??? Maybe it was just a toy, but I wish now I could hold it once more. Move forward, and focus on the new! Thanks, and good luck Karen.

  7. Me.Leslie! Ouch! This topic so close to home! As a “Dealer” that is Antique, and otherwise, for over 25 years and four different states, our last move back to F’Hope I started with six storage spaces! Not one thing inherited from anyone, all inventory! Down to two storages. And an over flowed garage and even in my home!!!
    Purge, purge, purge, my daughters favorite word!! I donate, only useable items, easily, as all I hear is “Mom you can’t keep everything” So true!
    Thanks for allowing me to share this confession!

    1. Oh Arlene, I feel your pain. If you remember, I also loved the antiques business at one time. I learned the hard way to only purchase things I’d be happy keeping if they didn’t sell. On this big purging adventure, there were still a few things left from my shop, but thank goodness, not much. It’s a fun business, but yes, you need storage! Good luck with your daughters!

  8. Woe is me… I totally understand the purge issues!! I “supposedly” downsized when I moved to SC 6 years ago; however, I still can’t park my car in the garage! Two weeks ago after attending grandson’s wedding, getting home exhausted at 11:00 pm, I rushed to brush my teeth and hop in bed and discovered NO HOT WATER! Yep, good old water heater decided to start leaking and a trail of water was seen running down middle of the garage and out under the door and well, you can guess the rest!!! Nothing worse than a wet mess of cardboard and plastic tubs. Now as soon as I can safely raise the garage door, without pollen alerting my allergies, I’m forced to deal with the grand purge! After all, I’m tired of looking at a large mix of Dept 56 Christmas sitting next to my Easter bunnies and Spring bouquets!! ?

    1. Oh no! How terrible. there’s nothing like a good natural (or mechanical) disaster to push us into action. Be careful and I hope everything you love can be saved.

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