Tuesday, July 14, 2015


George Carlin once said, "Your house is just a place for your stuff. If you didn't have so much God damned stuff, you wouldn't need a house. You could just walk around all the time. That's all your house is, it's a pile of stuff with a cover on it."

After 21 years in the same home, my pile of stuff is daunting. My second wife died in this house and a significant amount of the stuff was hers before we married. My third wife spent more than 10 years in this house and added a layer of her stuff to the pile. One of my sons lived here for several years, my daughter lived here for a couple of years, and my other sons have visited. Some of the stuff in this house once belonged to them.

About a year after my third wife and I divorced and my son moved into his own place, I went through every room, clearing away the unwanted, unneeded, or no-longer-useful things that had accumulated. I filled the trash can several times and took many carloads of stuff to Goodwill.

I thought I had done a thorough job. I hadn't. I went through the entire house again several years later and discovered stuff tucked away in places I had not thought to examine--drawers that had gone unopened, boxes not thoroughly rifled through, files of paperwork no longer of value. I eliminated even more stuff during that purge.

A few days ago, I started another purge, one that I anticipate will take much longer because I have already eliminated the stuff of least consequence. Much of what remains has value, either real or emotional, and decisions about what to keep and what to discard will be difficult.

The stuff I hold most dear can be the physical confirmation of treasured memories (photographs of my children), proof of my creative accomplishments (books and periodicals containing my writing), or simply things previously owned by, given to me by, or jointly purchased with a loved one.

This last category of stuff is by far the most difficult. This is the stuff that serves as a lifeline to the past or as an anchor that prevents me from facing the future. Too often I've insisted it was a lifeline while those around me insisted it was an anchor.

Do I have what it takes to weigh the anchor?

The purge I have just begun will answer that question.

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