Laughing all the way: On the nature of stuff

November 5, 2010

By Pat Detmer

When my sisters and I were children, we moved on an average of every two years. When people used to ask about it, I told them that my father was wanted by the police. He wasn’t really wanted by the police, but he was promoted often, this back in the day when working for a company was like being in the army. You didn’t question it. You just packed and moved. Applying the words “quality of life” to the workplace had yet to occur, except, perhaps, in Quaker Oats marketing meetings.

Having relocated every two years, we were all forced to take serious inventory of what was truly necessary and what wasn’t. After toiling over crates and cartons, you begin to realize that there’s a lot of stuff that you can do without.

Twenty years ago, The Sainted One and I — both vagabonds for much of our lives — bought a home on top of Olympus. We never dreamed that we would live in one spot as long as we’ve lived here. And even though we had learned to live lean, we unwittingly started to assemble our Museum of Crap. It’s one of those things that sneak up on you. You don’t realize that you’re doing it until one fall day you decide to clean out the credenza and find a 1985 driver’s license, and you’re forced to ask yourself: “What the hell?” Or words to that effect.

And the funny thing is that we’ve always prided ourselves on not being pack rats! We take monthly trips to Goodwill to drop off unneeded but still usable goods. Children on tight budgets are beneficiaries of extra tables and chairs. We provide items for charitable auctions. And yet stuff accumulates still, as if by magic.

After 20 years in one home, we’re also at that point where we must make some decisions regarding outdated interior design. There’s some serious monetary outlay involved. Also involved is the fact that both The Sainted One and I run our business out of extra bedrooms. (Note to self: Boss’s Day was Oct. 16. Buy yourself some chocolates.) How are we going to handle talking to clients on the phone while workers take crowbars to our kitchen cabinets?

So, the convergence of being surrounded by two decades’ worth of stuff and the need to redecorate has me wondering if slapping a “for sale” sign on the front of the house might not be a decent way out of this.

But then, I’d have to pack.

Never mind.

You can reach Pat Detmer, who will be sorting through her stuff, through

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