• author
    • Pat Rigley

      Columnist
    • December 31, 2015 in Columnists

    Stuffocating

    Stuff.

    It’s everywhere. Pushing against closet doors, cascading off shelves, displacing cars from comfy garages into a cold winter’s blast. It’s even in our turkeys and teddy bears. We’re surrounded and outnumbered. And since this morning, I’m feeling a bit stuffy myself.

    One thing for sure, I have way too much of it.

    A fair portion of the stuff my wife and I own we’ve squirreled away for decades. For all intent, our combined stockpile occupies space and offers us little in return. It simply exists. Boxes of vinyl records, comics, baseball cards, dolls, photos, books, and whatnot, inhabit a sizeable chunk of our garage. It only gets worse inside our home.

    Like most, we have the usual cadre of bric-a-brac that lines our shelves and hangs from our walls. We are decorated to the max.

    Don’t get me wrong; it looks fabulous — interior design fabulous. But what’s strange is the majority of this stuff carries little personal meaning — they’re essentially props. If it’s pretty, and the right color, it’s in.

    “Oh, that’s nice,” I’ll say to my wife, checking out some new wall hanging. “Have any idea what it is?”

    “No,” she replies, “but I saw something like it in a magazine ad and thought it would go great in the room.”

    Which leaves me to wonder.

    Did that same item hold any significance for the couple pictured in the magazine? Or did they spot theirs from an advertisement as well?

    It’s the circle of stuff.

    I mean, where does all this crap come from? Does it just poop from the ether to land on a department store shelf?

    skull cupCase in point. I am holding a gray plastic Halloween juice cup that’s playfully molded in the shape of a skull in a graveyard. Somewhere, a company made a conscious business decision to create this barely functional knick-knack and send it out into the world — more than likely with the laughable intent to turn a profit.

    Using my magic keyboard, let’s drop into the brainstorming session that birthed this silliness. Todd, the marketing guy, is really jazzed this morning as he prompts the first PowerPoint slide.

    “Harold has this fantastic idea. A gray plastic Halloween juice cup that’s playfully molded in the shape of a skull in a graveyard.”

    The CEO is dumbstruck.

    “Amazing, lets kick out a million. NO, make that two.”

    And off to the races we go. Tons of gray vinyl pellets are ordered, computer geek slaves are whipped-cracked to create computer files that generate molds, and shipping is scheduled to deliver the product throughout the world. Think about this as you walk down any shopping aisle and realize that each and every item present has gone through a similar process. Yes, shit happens, but most times there’s real effort behind it.

    I admit — I’m feeling a little sensitive right now. I actually get depressed this time of the year as I wander through the stores looking for those perfect gifts (which is complete and utter balderdash since I do most of my shopping online, though there was a time I bricked-and-mortared my way through those Christmas obligations).

    Slip into any home decorating section and take a good hard look at the wares being offered. Better yet, drop by any TJ Maxx, Ross, or Marshalls—the elephant burial grounds of defunct decor. Now ask yourself: will the majority of these articles ever leave the shelf? Actually make their way up to the checkout line? How many tin metal angels, giraffes, flying pigs, and gold-flaked plastic candelabras, can one foister on the consumers of the world? Apparently, a hell of a lot.

    And when the stores clear those items by month’s end (surely to make room for cupids and other valentine paraphernalia), where does this stuff go? I doubt they magically become unmade, or get stashed in some warehouse in Poughkeepsie waiting for a second (and third) chance of being adopted. Most likely these orphans are here to stay, spilling across the planet to eventually pile up in the neighborhoods of the world’s least fortunate.

    Why do we torment ourselves with this stuff? I admit it — I’m suffering from Hoarders Lite syndrome, in dire need of an intervention. Over the last 15 years my wife and I have gone through the process of downsizing three times. Coincidentally, in a numerical sense, the home we now share is nearly a third the size of the McMansions we started with. Owning a small house really centers you. It forces you to make the decision — your stuff, or you. So far, the scale is still tilting in the wrong direction for my liking.

    What really matters is that we are laying down some roots once again. We’ve been in this house going on three years with no foreseeable plans to move again. A blessing to be sure, considering that since we’ve exchanged vows, I have personally laid hands eight times on every item we’ve owned as we moved our way up and down the West Coast. Like Sisyphus, we’ve condemned ourselves to pushing this stuff wherever we go — death by a thousand knicks (and knacks), so to speak. Our worldly possessions give the loaves and fish parable a run for its money.

    So I’m a man on a mission… in search of a miracle. I’ve tried to divest myself of a few of my favorite things. But after a few days rummaging through this box and that, I realized it wasn’t the objects themselves that held sway over me, but the memories each invoked— all of them little nostalgia nuggets.

    It’s a heck of a lot to ask a man to throw away his past. So I’ve decided to pass that work detail onto my offspring — future inheritors of my great fortune. It’s only fitting, for a few bucks they’ll spend a delightful afternoon rummaging through my things, evaluating all my earthly treasures with a less prejudiced eye. Hopefully, for their sake, they’ll send most of it on it’s merry way to Good Will, or the landfill. And if they find something to their liking, they can add it to… their stuff.



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