SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska


Tackling the repository of stuff
Scripps Howard News Service


April 23, 2007

Somewhere in your home - spare bedroom, attic, basement, garage - is the Repository of Stuff We Don't Use Anymore.

It's a mystical place of letter sweaters and souvenir ashtrays, baby clothes and broken crockery, Magic Eight-Balls and eight-track tapes, outgrown toys and outmoded phones and old jeans that will fit again after we drop 20 pounds (yeah, right).

Once in a blue moon, someone in your household will feel compelled to clean out this accumulated detritus. We could make better use of that space, the thinking goes, and we'll never, ever need this stuff again. Why not get rid of it?

This is an admirable ambition, but, as with so many things, it's easier said than done. Parting with your old stuff is a hard, dirty job that requires elbow grease, grit and resolve. Not to mention backache medication and frequent hot showers and, quite possibly, an expensive divorce.

At our house, the Repository of Unused Stuff was in our three-car garage. I don't want to say how much dusty stuff we had piled up, but there was barely room for two vehicles. You do the math.

This heap of random stuff didn't bother me. Sure, we had moved it all a couple of times. Sure, some of the boxes weren't even labeled. But I figured, as long as I could get my minivan door open and squeeze inside, everything was fine. The stuff wasn't hurting anything. We'd sort it out eventually. Maybe a small fire would solve the problem for us.

My wife had other ideas. The stacks of sacks and boxes and assorted belongings bugged her. She'd put up with this stuff for years, and it was high time we did something about it.

Of course, she's got no time herself. She's busy having a career. I'm home all day, so it fell to me to tackle the garage. She urged me to leap into action, in a sort of X-Treme Spring-Cleaning Challenge, and conquer Mt. Stuff with speed, muscle and brainpower.

I'm not a leap-into-action sort of guy. I'm more of a sit-and-ponder-and-sigh type. When I do finally take action, it's almost imperceptible.

I oozed out into the garage and started opening boxes and sorting through sacks. I hauled off stuff. I threw some away. I gave a lot to charity. Gradually, the mound of stuff grew smaller.

The goal was to make that third garage usable. Our older son has a car now, and if we could lose enough stuff, he could park indoors. Not that he's ever home. Not that we care if his filthy car sits out in the weather. But you've got to set goals to take on a job like this.

After I got rid of a lot of stuff, I ran into a true dilemma. What remained - extra furniture, an old microwave, a portable TV - would be perfect for a dorm room or a first apartment. If I kept it, with an eye toward my son moving out soon, then he couldn't park in the garage. If I got rid of it, he'd have another excuse to never leave home.

So I took all that stuff and put it in his car.

Kidding! It wouldn't fit in his car. And he wouldn't take the hint anyway.

No, I'm still stacking and sorting and throwing stuff out. Slowly making progress. Someday, I'll be finished. That old stuff will be out of our lives, once and for all.

Then it'll be time to get some new stuff.

(Redding, Calif., author Steve Brewer's latest book is called "Monkey Man." Contact him at ABQBrewer(at)

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