I have reached the point in life where, even if I spent every waking moment I have left going through my accumulated possessions, I would probably run out of time before I run out of junk to sort through.
I know I have too much stuff and really do mean to get rid of most of it. The problem is that the goods and gifts just keep on accumulating, like a never ending snowstorm of consumerism. By the time I manage to wrangle a free hour from my busy schedule to clean out a closet, or a nook or cranny or drawer, there is already far more than an hour’s worth of shiny new crap to sort through.
I am like an archaeologist, digging through layers of an excavation. On top of the pile on my dining room table is today’s mail. Underneath that, the forms I was supposed to fill out for my son’s school yesterday. Then perhaps a layer of spilled potato chips that can’t be completely cleaned up until I sort through the parts of the phone that I disassembled to see if I could find out why it wasn’t working before I fork out money for a new one.
It goes without saying that we haven’t eaten dinner on the dining room table for some time. When we did need to clear the debris in order to entertain company, we simply took everything that was there, put it in a box which we labeled with the date, and stuck that on top of a stack of similarly dated boxes in what used to be the music room, and not another storage annex to our basement, attic and garage.
I know all these boxes need to be gone through and sorted out. They may contain important things that have been missing for months, like the spare set of keys to my car, for example. Not that I absolutely need those spare keys. I could easily go out and make another set, but the main key is one with a chip in it that costs 100 bucks to replicate and requires a trip to the dealer. Plus the set includes a bunch of other keys to unknown locks. If I had a full set of unknown spare keys, then I’d be able to systematically go through them, one by one, whenever I happen to come across a lockbox, or file cabinet, or drawer that I haven’t looked inside of for months, or in some cases years, but which may contain something of value that I’ve locked away, knowing that someday I’d want to return and claim my prize.
You can see where this is going. To get unburied from all this clutter will require a systematic clearing and sorting of all my junk. That might even be something that I could accomplish in the time allotted me on this earth, if it weren’t for the fact that comingled with all my junk is all my wife’s junk, and all my youngest son’s stuff, plus all the stuff that my two older children, who live thousands of miles away, have left behind for safekeeping. This is not to mention all the stuff that we’ve inherited from our dearly beloved relatives who have passed on to the other world, freed from their earthly trials and woes, and couches and coffee tables, and collections of 78 RPM records that I’m sure must be worth something on eBay, if I knew how to sell anything on eBay, or price it, which I intend to figure out someday, but in the meantime I can’t just throw them away, can I?
Look, I’m not a hoarder. I’m not one of those people who goes around to people’s tree lawns looking for perfectly usable items that they’re throwing out just because they’ve gotten a new, improved model. (OK, I used to be, but that was different. I still had space left in my garage.) And I’m not some survivalist kook who thinks the end of the world is coming, so I’d better be stocked up for it.
No, my huge stash of junk is a testimonial to my belief in the staying power of our way of life. Someday, I’m going to have a chance to review all the things I’ve chosen to accumulate. I’m going to read all the books that I’ve picked up for a buck at library book sales. I’m going to learn to play the broken accordion that I inherited from my grandfather. I’m going to find the missing pieces to all the puzzles of my life and reassemble them in a way I was never able to do the first time I tried, because I’m older and wiser, and I’ll have so much more free time, at some future unspecified date that I’m sure will arrive while I still have all my faculties and body parts, and possibly even a clearing of two-by-two feet on the dining room table.
But if that doesn’t happen, which unfortunately now seems increasingly likely, then I have reached a point of no return. A point where it is no longer feasible to ever go through all the thousands of pages of journals, to sort all the old CDs and tapes, to even begin looking at all the files and old photos.
So please, whoever comes after me, don’t feel any compunction to try to sort through my crap. You will have way too much of your own to deal with. Just send in a squad of strangers and have them bag it all up and haul it away somewhere you’ll never have to think about it again. Unless you still have some space in your garage.