Wenona and Rocky Warren ran an aerial photography business for many years. Later in her life, Wenona came to work at the Gunnison Country Times, where she took very good care of a younger me.
They owned at least one hangar out at the airport, and I say “at least one,” because the one I visited didn’t hold any airplanes. It may have been their darkroom and/or office, and I went there exactly once, to help them clean it up.
Only I wasn’t much help, because everything I saw that could be disposed of was a non-starter for them. Including the handful of pennies scattered across the floor that had turned green from chemicals. I was sure those could be thrown away, but Wenona demurred, and I soon realized this was a hopeless task — they weren’t going to throw anything away, and they weren’t going to let me throw anything away.
Monday I was the Wenona in this story, and my sister Tia was me.
Audrie from the real estate office was coming to take pictures, presumably available for the entire world to see as of tomorrow, and the half of the house Lynn tackled looked pretty good. (Except that her solution for a clutter-free kitchen was to shove everything in the garage, and then she was dismayed to learn that Audrie needed a picture of the garage as well.)
With 15 minutes left before Audrie’s arrival, I was standing in the toy room —
Yes, I have a toy room. I have no children, and no niecphews who ever visited, but I have a toy room. Here is the great hypocrisy in my life: while I think the planet should be saved from plastic, I have an inordinate fondness for cheap plastic crap from China. If you’ve never heard of the Rhode Island Novelty Company, you might not know what I’m talking about. But I have lots of toys, many of which are hardly Good for the Environment.
— I was standing in the toy room, which over the years has become a repository for much more than toys, with Tia, casting about helplessly for what I might do that would make it more presentable in 15 minutes.
Tia had no qualms. “That ball can go,” she said, pointing to an deflated playground ball with a Culver’s logo on it.
“I got that when Lynn and I took Elliot [our nephew] to Culver’s, just the three of us,” I argued. “It reminds me of him.”
“Don’t you have a picture of Elliot?” Tia asked. And I’m sure I do, but not one of him when he was 9 and we had fun at Culver’s. And my photos are stashed in unorganized boxes throughout the toy room — although I do have a digital plan for them. When I get there.
“The basketballs can go,” Tia said, and she’s right about that. At least two of them can. Except that we don’t currently have any box big enough to hold basketballs, and they were in the closet, not an immediate impediment.
Tia was ready to get a trash bag and just start chucking. (Although I will point out that I handed her a drawstring backpack and asked if I should keep it or toss it, and, ratty as it was — obviously a trash candidate — she decided it could be donated. Why that could be donated but everything else needed to be thrown away I don’t know.)
I was not willing to just start chucking. Even if I’m not going to use something, I have a very hard time consigning items to landfills. Surely someone else along the way can use it; thus, it needs to be sorted.
Tia walked away. There really wasn’t anything else for her to do at that point. I was Hector the Collector, and she was “all the silly, sightless people” who called his stuff junk, to quote Uncle Shelby Silverstein.
Since this experience brought up all my inadequacies, I have been contemplating Stuff. I have a lot of it. But so, I am noticing, does almost everyone else, including many, if not all, of the people who are telling me I need to purge. My mother and my other sister have made moves in the last decade, and they both told me they got rid of lots of Stuff — but there is still Stuff in their houses (both of which are considerably less cluttered than mine, although they both have a LOT more space to spread Stuff over). And, I might add, there is plenty of Stuff in Tia’s house as well.
Lynn and I have rented a storage shed to facilitate getting Stuff out of this house and into (or not) the new one. The place we chose is the newest one in town, at a convenient point between the two houses. It might be a year or so old, and we were assigned Unit A2, which I thought meant they had barely started seeing any use.
Ha! There are three sets of storage units, numbering I think into the 30s for each set, and almost every one of them has a padlock on it, indicating use. That’s plenty of Stuff. And this is only one of numerous storage places around town.
It’s easy to clean other people’s Stuff, because some percentage is clearly — except to the beholder and his or her eye — junk. One man’s trash, and all that. I used to watch Pawn Stars a lot, and was always incredulous at the price some fairly useless items would fetch. Why would anyone want a pair of used shoes, no matter what athlete they belonged to? But I still have an Air Force hat that will never fit. It was my dad’s, and while he got out of the service shortly after Terri was born, it’s a memento of him. He was in uniform when he married my mom, starting our family. I don’t see me throwing it away.
But I do have to pack it up, and I am trying to be mindful of something I read just the other day. I have not yet found my way to the Kondo Craze, and barely know what it is, but some guy named Walsh, who might have a book called Let Go, or Let It Go, said that if you’re saving something as a memento, you need to honor it. If you’re just going to stash it in a drawer and never look at it, then why save it?
That makes sense to me. It’s not what I currently do, but maybe I can try applying at least a modicum of that sensibility as I sort and box up. Maybe. While other people’s Stuff is clearly Junk, my Stuff is real Stuff worth saving.
And I am not alone in this approach, no matter what all of you are telling me.
Photo: the ukulele that belonged to Pat of Pat’s Screen Printing, the ball from Culver’s, something alien, the pirate ship my mom gave me one adult Christmas. The cord running up the dresser (which is filled with cheap plastic toys and stuffed animals) goes to my first radio. It’s broken, and I keep trying to throw it away, but it’s how I first connected with the Top 40 music world, listening to KOMA out of Oklahoma at night. Every last bit of it junk, right? Easy for you to say.