For a lifetime, my family and friends have been on the receiving end of my derision, mocking laughter, pointy fingers and blatant abuse about their sentimental attachment to "stuff." Why keep that crap? I sneered with superiority. What possible use is an old address book 40 years later, when everyone in it is dead, current address unknown? Get rid of it! I snarled, rolling my eyes in distaste at the detritus of a lifetime, carefully packed away.
All that smug sarcasm bit me on the ass Labor Day weekend -- big ouch!
I've said before in this blog that the title of Ryokan's Zen poetry, "One Bowl, One Robe" is my ideal for the perfect way to live: simple, sparse, clean, no shopping, no dusting.
Stuff and clutter to me are visual noise: chatter that just won't stop, racket that assails me every time I look at it, a major source of stress and unrest -- like toddlers in the back seat on a road trip or the barking of the rat-bastard terriers next door. It jars me, it rattles my cage, it unsettles my peace, it pisses me off. I honestly do keep household clutter at a minimum -- but my closets, garage and drawers, ahhh... they tell a different and very sleazy story.
Imagine my distress this past Saturday when I realized with blinding humiliation that EVERY drawer, EVERY closet, EVERY space beneath the beds, EVERY cupboard and my ENTIRE garage is crammed with STUFF.
Sure, some of it is good stuff. Some is stuff every household needs -- to a point. A bit of it is valuable (unused, but valuable), some of it is required by the IRS. Most of it, however, is just plain crap and any right-thinking person would have thrown it away decades ago.
When I moved to this house on Labor Day, 2000, I took with me everything from my former home. I didn't at that time sort through and discard anything... if it existed in that time/space continuum, it got packed and still exists in this dimension. Here are some things I found this weekend as I began the process of restoring order and sanity to my life:
- My fourth grade ruler. I know it's my fourth grade ruler because it has my maiden name and "4th grade" chewed into it by my very sharp teeth.
- A bottle of water (capped like a beer bottle) from 1989, post the Loma Prieta earthquake. Maybe there's a market on ebay as a collectible, but I doubt it.
- A mummified mouse preserved in a box circa the move in 2000. R.I.P.
- Every greeting card, invitation and thank you note I've ever received from any family member. Seriously. (It's exactly this collection that I know will warm my hypocritical place in hell, since I've been so ruthless about ridiculing others for keeping this specific memorabilia.)
- A tiny, discreet notebook filled with names of old boyfriends, complete with a "starring" system for their... ummm...let's just say, likelihood for another date.
- 37 sun visors that don't fit and give me a headache within 37 seconds of wearing them.
- Training manuals for my current job, unread since 1993.
- 2 dead 486 computers, 3 dead monitors and 3 keyboards dating to 1993, plus all the manuals for each of them. (Remember when electronics came with printed manuals?)
- Software manuals for programs I haven't used since 1993 and don't even have on my system.
- Airline tickets and tour info for a trip to Europe in 1993. 1993 seems to have been a watershed year for sentimentality.
- 4 full storage boxes labeled "personal crap" and subdivided by dead family members. It's true - you can't take it with you -- God knows I tried to make my husband take his stuff.
- A clown wig I wore for Halloween in 2004 and have no intention of ever wearing again.
- Newsletters I wrote for a Mothers Of Twins club when my kids were babies; they are now the parents of my grandchildren.
- Every craft my kids ever made and all their kindergarten papers. Every single one.
- Old blankets and quilts I wouldn't use, or let anyone else use, even if the alternative were freezing to death.
- Waterlogged books with missing covers that either accompanied me in long baths or were recovered from the Titanic. Not sure which.
- 67 videos, most of which I also have on DVD, and an uncounted number of cassette tapes, not listened to for at least 8 years.
- 9 dried corsages from important although now unremembered events. This is critical shit to keep, ya know? Also, the dresses I wore to my sons' weddings. No wonder they don't display the family photos.
- Complete veterinary records, licenses, collars and leashes for two dead dogs. Jesus.
- A tiny box of salt from the Bonneville land speed trials - not suitable for cooking.
- The best discovery: A Clinton/Gore election button -- ahhh, the good old days.
- A box containing every cheap glass vase I ever received from flower deliveries (AND the cards that accompanied them). You can't give these vases away - people demand payment for them, and the garbage service refuses them.
- A disaster box -- no, not earthquake supplies -- magazines from the Challenger accident, Princess Diana's death, Bush's election and re-election, the WTC attacks, etc. Something to read whenever I'm feeling too happy, I guess.
I will now open the 1989 bottle of water and use it to wash down ALL the mean words about sentimentality I've ever said --- and that I've just eaten.