Discussing stuff while getting rid of it

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In preparation for this new thread on stuff, I spent much of the day talking and thinking about it at the perfect venue for this sort of thing: a yard sale.

Friends of ours were having one and invited us to piggyback on theirs, so we had a “multi-family” purge on a sun-baked California street corner. My daughter was scotch-taping the signs up around the neighborhood (which is why they are knee-level for a tall adult), and then I hauled our crap, I mean stuff, onto that lawn. And people bought it.

It was cleansing. The families hung out and talked about this odd tyranny of stuff. The other family was getting dirty looks from the mom/mother-in-law, who is a bit of a hoarder and couldn’t quite believe what we were giving away. My friend was walking out with something or other, allegedly a thing of beauty, and his mother-in-law interrupted her phone conversation to raise her eyebrows and say: “That was a wedding present from [so-and-so], you know.”

He chortled. It was his dang wedding, and a fun one, and it’s his dang marriage, and a good one, so where is the law that says he must forever junk up his house with crap, I mean stuff, that he never wanted in the first place?

The ladies did, however, share how hard it often has been for them to part with their stuff. The other mom had already tried dumping the baby things once, and said she was overcome by a sort of “nausea” and had to stop. This time, fortunately, she was ready.

The lads had no memories of any psychosomatic stuff-parting pains to report.

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6 thoughts on “Discussing stuff while getting rid of it

    • Well, there was the time when somebody broke into my apartment in Hong Kong and stole …. nothing.

      Nothing!

      As the cops were taking fingerprints in the place, I worked myself into a furor. Right there on the wall were two drawings–charcoal portraits I did in my college Studio Art class. Was the value not obvious? How could they walk right past them?

      Hong Kong thievery is not what it used to be.

      But that’s not what you were asking. Yes, in general, if somebody broke in (and neither harmed nor scared my little ones) and took everything, I might just have a celebratory toast.

  1. The theme of Ernest Becker’s book “The Denial of Death” was (it was written in the 1970s) that casting aside our anxiety that we’ll one day die, is the underlying cause (the Ur-cause?) of everything we do.

    Thus our addiction to “stuff” makes psychological sense, for our “stuff” is a distraction from our existential fear of death and nothingness, a fear which, if given reign, would overwhelm us, making of us, gibbering wrecks.

  2. This reminds me, I have a perfectly good RCA television that I bought in 1992. If anyone wants it, stop by. There’s a VCR. I have some hollow-core doors, too.

    If you take it, where is all this stuff going to end up (eventually)? There’s undoubtedly lead and tin in my TV. I tried taking my doors to the groovy recycle place. The recycle place doesn’t want them. I’m not supposed to just throw them away. The dump doesn’t want them. I can’t burn them. ‘Donating’ hollow-core doors is like bringing Jello to a potluck in this town. (it’s more than unwanted, it’s uncool). How about a disposal or refund tax on the new stuff? This happens in Europe, doesn’t it?

    There was a time when I could move house on my bicycle. This was the unbearable lightness of being. Now I live with two female humans and one female cat. They have stuff. I wouldn’t move without them.

    • Ah. The word “female” came up. That’s the topic I need to tackle in one of the next few posts….

      Regarding where all your toxic stuff goes: Michael Zhao, who was a student of mine when I taught at Berkeley’s J-School, once made this fascinating and heart-wrenching video documentary about the places in China where our stuff ends up. Purple and yellow fumes and liquids oozing out of mountains of electronic gear as little kids walk barefoot ….

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