At the time I left home for a two decade-plus foray in Asia, Colonel Sanders was still running around drowning buckets of chicken in deep-fat fryers, and all I owned could fit in one suitcase. Not any suitcase though, the nearly extinct fabric covered cardboard type with rusty metal snaps that with some twine and a prayer held the thing together.
Now when I look at my home, every closet and every cupboard is filled with a lifetime of stuff, many of it the kind you see being sold for ten dollars or less at garage sales. But people love stuff. We love our things, no matter how big or small, pretty or functional, expensive or cheap, we need to have the bits and pieces that make us who we are.
Stuff falls into different categories. There’s the useful stuff; phones, sofas, TV’s, computers, the omelet pan you nicked from your Mom’s kitchen after graduating to your first apartment. Then there’s the sentimental stuff; frayed school jerseys, the plastic tiara you wore at your girlfriends’ bachelorette party, match books that come with some great memories and some of which you’d rather forget. And then there’s the “What was I thinking of?” stuff, like the treadmill that gets more use as a clothes rack, the pig-shaped fridge magnet that oinks every time you open the door, the overpriced oil painting done by a gypsy elephant and the fuchsia pink tube top tricked out with “Disco Baby” sequins.
But there comes a time in everyone’s life, when you finally say to yourself (and in all likelihood prompted by your partner), it’s time to downsize. Time to throw away that MS-DOS for Dummies, the “skinny” jeans that are but a wistful thought, the duplicate copy of 1998’s tax return, and the hidden love letters from a former flame (well, let’s not get carried away here, when was the last time you were referred to as “earthly splendor”?).
The irony of it all though is that getting rid of stuff is so much harder than acquiring it. As we move that chipped “Jack’s Smokehouse” mug to the bin, it cries out to us “Wait! Remember all those mornings when it was just you and me, a good cup of coffee and the sports pages?” Or the lumpy easychair that endured hours of football, jumping kids, liquids of differing viscosities, and was a faithful retreat for an anxious parent waiting up for a wayward teen.
Though once determined, there are three ways of getting rid of stuff. Bag it, drag it or tag it. Bag it is the easiest. Taking on the cold personae of the Terminator, ruthlessly bag your 2nd place company golf trophy, haul it to the curb and be done with it. Or do-gooder that you are, drag your stuff over to the nearest charity. It’s not on the same scale as donating a kidney, but hey, your copy of MS-DOS is just what that kid with the donated Commodore 64 computer was looking for.
Tag it, the garage sale, is not for the faint-hearted. Putting a price on memories versus perceived value usually devolves into a high wire act of heated emotions, so prepare yourself for the steely eyes and dispassionate appraisals from strangers. The successful seller will rehearse this mantra, “Lo, that I walk through the valley of bargain seekers, I will fear no hagglers. I will remain firm on the trampoline and the set of golf clubs.” At the end of the day, hopefully you will have recouped a diminutive percentage of your original outlay and restrained yourself from throttling that middle-aged guy who insisted your kid’s Pokemon collection was half fake but bought it anyways at a third of the price offered.
And now, with the clutter gone, you survey your newfound expanse of space, taking a moment to give a proper burial for Fred IV, your pet hamster who you unearthed within the pile of old boots, ice skates and outgrown shoes. So enjoy the lightness of step, the freedom of total liberty, unbounded by the things that shackle and define you, that is of course until you eye that new gourmet one-touch espresso machine on sale. After all, one man’s treasure is another man’s future garage sale bargain.
Dinah Chong Watkins has been around since the age of Methuselah – oh no wait, that’s her husband. Still a child bride (it’s all relative), she escaped the cold, snowy winters of Toronto for the cold, smoggy winters of Beijing. She likes Pina Coladas, long walks on the beach and is counting on her husband’s 401K to provide all that. In the meantime, she hopes you’ll get a chuckle or two out of her writing because laughter is priceless or at least that’s what her editor said when she asked for a raise. Enjoy more of her writing at http://aletterfromabroad.wordpress.com