My mom, Ann Stell, used to say “Beware of possessions, because they possess the possessor.” That’s an awkward sentence but it’s so true. Basically, what my brilliant and crazy mom meant was “All your junk actually owns you.”
All the nick-knacks in our lives make us do things and not do things. That means the crap is in charge. We can’t pack up and move because we have so much stuff. We can’t buy a smaller house, we can’t stop paying for storage buildings, we can’t find an empty cabinet because every week we acquire new things, from McDonald’s Coke glasses to shoes and coffee cups.
I carry a lot more stuff into my house than I ever carry out. Every week, I stuff more and more into the 2,100 square feet. No wonder I’m feeling kind of claustrophobic.
But how can I decide what’s important? My problem is my family is dead so every little do-dad and thingamajigger has a special meaning. My brother Jack died when I was 16 and he was 23. That was more than 30 years ago so I have to keep the little blue cup he made out of clay when he was 7. And when my husband Alex and I were dating I bought him an ugly framed print of an Indian looking at a mountain. It’s awful, but I have to keep it, right? Along with the tickets to the first concert we went to (Tina Turner) and the dozens of crystals we dug up one weekend. I have three chairs and two desks that belonged to my grandmother. They are old and “special” so nobody actually uses them. I should keep those too, right? And there’s a goulash pot Alex’s grandmother always used and it reminds us of dinners with her. There are four people living in the house but we have 18 coffee mugs. What the hell is wrong with me? Everything in my house belonged to dead people.
Last weekend I was wearing a pair of shorts I stole from my brother, Granger, before he died. The running joke is “Hey, look, I’ve got a ghost in my pants.”
It’s got to stop somewhere. Or we need to move to a bigger house, one with three sheds instead of the two we have now, or maybe a barn.
Jack and Mary, my two oldest children, have developed an absolute aversion to anything sentimental because of our “stuff problem”. Mary and her honey Richard, have a beautiful apartment with almost no furniture cause she likes it empty. Jack has become such a minimalist he only has a truck, one pair of pants, five white tee-shirts and a toothbrush.
Maybe they are on to something.