The Tyranny of "Stuff"We finally had that yard sale last week, the one we'd been threatening to have for the past two years. As we were clearing off the pool table and lugging all the junk upstairs my wife and I were both struck by how much crap we've accumulated without even trying. I even went through my books and tossed a few dozen outside to be sold.
At that moment, when everything in the house became possible yard sale fodder, I began asking myself if I really need all of these books, many of which I read years ago and have been collecting dust ever since. Some of them I bought in high school and have been moving around with me for years. Chances are I'll never read them again, some of them I'll never even open again. They'd survived past yard sales because they're books that I enjoyed reading at some point, and who knows? I might decide to read them again. But they're still stuff. And when you're looking at all of that stuff on piles on tables, and under tables, and sitting on boxes next to tables, it all becomes junk that isn't ever going back into the house.
On the other hand, they're books.
So yes, there are still shelves full of books in the house. And there are still boxes full of books in the basement. Those books belong for the most part to my kids, so in theory, one day they will be taken away. Some of them are mine though, and they're still in the basement. Many of them are beautiful children's books that are just too good to dump. Some of them are signed by the authors and/or illustrators. Some of them are remains of my mother's children's book collection, most of which was donated to a local library when she died.
Before she died I always told myself that whichever books my siblings didn't want, I would pack up and bring home. After she died I started asking myself where I was going to put all those books. So I swiped a few of the good ones, first edition Caldecott winners, signed, or stuff I just liked. I left others with my father, and the rest are now being shared (I hope) with local children.
I don't think we sold a single book at our sale. I see books at other yard sales, usually their trashy best sellers, diet books, or other things I'm not interested in. There are almost always kid's books. We had kid books and diet books, but I thought the rest of the books, since they weren't trashy best sellers, would sell. I forgot that most people don't think like me. I took the kid books to school, and they will be donated when school starts in September. Our librarian will be so happy with the extra work these books will make for her, I'd better bring her a present.
We also had clothes, bikes, games, and miscellaneous items. The bikes went quickly. There is a guy, whose house we pass all the time who buys and sells used bikes. They're out on his lawn every weekend.
We got rid of a bunch of other junk, but there was still a lot left at the end.
I'd advertised the sale on Craigslist. From that ad, I got an email from Goodwill. I called them Sunday night. They came on Monday and took away all of the leftovers. I appreciate that kind of service.
As I was looking at the Goodwill receipt it suddenly hit me that it pays more to donate your junk because the tax write off is much higher than the pittance you get from people looking for cheap stuff.
On the other hand, neighbors come over to visit. You meet new people. And I was able to get a lot of reading done.
It is now possible to walk in the basement. When I look around the house though, I still see lots of stuff that I'm responsible for. And there is still stuff that I want, mostly music and book stuff. How do I balance wanting my stuff with the knowledge that most of is is just "stuff", and since it's mine, I have to take care of it, keep it clean, make sure it stays usable and all that? How do I keep from coveting more books and music?