More on Stuff

In no way, shape, or form could I be considered a neat freak. I’d like to think I am, but when dust bunnies come rolling out from behind my bedroom door as I walk by, I’d say that aspiring to be one is not a realistic goal. However, in following up with Evelyn’s Monday post about “stuff,” I have some definite opinions. And they do not gibe with the rest of my family’s take on the subject.

I’m a “dumper” married to—and the mother of—“hoarders.”

I’ve been accused of possessing no sentiment, but my defense is simple: If it wasn’t for me and my big, black plastic garbage bags making a sweep of the house every now and again (usually when no one is home), we’d be overrun by stuff. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

They’re wise to me, though. They have taken to sifting through the garbage bags when I’m not around and retrieving stuff they know they cannot live without. For example, the book of stickers that my daughter got for her fifth birthday (she’s now fifteen). Or, the forty pairs of ice skates—in various sizes—that my husband’s colleague at work gave him because he was throwing out his own stuff. Or one of those goofy “family information” posters that tell you fake information about your family based on your surname. News flash: They all have the same information on them. We also have vhs versions of every Disney movie, every plastic super hero ever made, bills and checks from before we had children, and a hodgepodge of furniture from various points in our lives.

I fear that if I don’t take serious action soon, we may be overtaken by our stuff.

My husband’s answer is “we need more storage.” My answer is “we need to throw more stuff out.” Tell me, how do a hoarder and a dumper meet halfway? Do any of you have the answers out there? (And I’m looking at you, Marilyn, because you’ve been married the longest.) I’m wondering, if like Evelyn, we decided to downsize if that would encourage the disposal of all of the things I don’t think we need, yet everyone else considers essential? Is moving the only way to get rid of your stuff?

I took it upon myself to get rid of a bunch of 45s—remember those? Small records with a weird cut out in the middle?—a few years back. I thought the coast was clear and that nobody would miss them until my husband decided to buy a turntable. He searched for his 45s and finally asked me if I had seen them. Busted. I had to admit that I had thrown them out.

But I’ve found that I’ve become the scapegoat for all missing objects. Can’t find your homework? Mom must have recycled it. Missing a shoe? We bet Mommy threw it out! Looking for that crucial bit of paper that had all of our 2008 tax information on it? Well, there’s a big black plastic bag in the closet…look in there. We bet she tossed it with the rest of the garbage.

I have to admit that after the 45s affair, I’m less inclined to throw people’s stuff out without asking their permission first. But I’ve found that asking permission to throw something out is met with hurled invective and recriminations. So, I’m putting you, our faithful Stiletto Gang readers, on notice: if for some reason I don’t post next week, send someone to my house and up to my office. You may just find me under a mountain of stuff.

Maggie Barbieri