Old Stuff

March 2, 2012

I am addicted to old stuff. Not just any old stuff, like that which one can find at flea markets and garage sales. My old stuff. I can’t seem to part with it. This of course causes both great clutter in my basement as well as consternation on the part of my wife (she likes to throw things out). For me, every trip downstairs to do a load of wash or get some paper towels can turn into a protracted trip down memory lane as I get distracted by a box of old stuff.

I have a hard time letting my old stuff go because it is imbued with emotional significance. This is the history of my life, the artifacts that mark the passage of my time on this Earth. I am aware that this particular old stuff is of absolutely no interest to anyone else. These are not items that will increase in value some day; no priceless antiques or collectables here. Those who would hope to find some rare baseball card or original Wallace Nutt shall be sadly disappointed. My old stuff will merely become someone else’s burden some day,  just a basement full of crap to dispose of. That is a harsh reality, and I accept it.

But I still can’t get rid of it.

Here is, in part, what would be found: various Boy Scout neckerchiefs and  neckerchief slides and badges from different camps and activities; assorted arts and crafts made in my early school years (usually as gifts for my parents) including a clay dinosaur, candle holder, and ashtray (I liked clay); my report cards — a complete set — from kindergarten through high school; most editions of my high school and college newspapers; knickknacks sent over from my relatives in Sweden; a sewing box full of buttons that I treasured for some strange reason as a little boy; a plastic case of Viewmaster discs along with a nonfunctioning Viewmaster; the contents of my desk drawer from my childhood bedroom; bronzed baby shoes (do people still do that??); souvenir match boxes from assorted bars in Hong Kong and Manila; every letter or postcard ever sent to me.

I made a valiant effort to eliminate  some of my old stuff the past few summers which was only partly successful. The main accomplishment of this attempted purge was to organize everything in boxes, so now at least the clutter is somewhat orderly and geometrical. This made my wife happier because it looks like less stuff.

I know that I am not alone in this affliction for several reasons. First, during the summers of my college years, I worked as a meter reader for Public Service Electric and Gas Company. That job brought me into countless basements throughout northern New Jersey (who knows — maybe I was in yours). I observed that more than a few of them were subterranean Museums of Personal History in various states of disarray. Second, I have seen reports on TV, the most recent by Steve Hartman on the CBS Sunday Morning Show, that featured others of this bent. And third, the fact that today, March 2, has been designated by Those Who Should Know as Old Stuff Day. How much more legitimate can that be!

So tomorrow morning when I go down to do the laundry, don’t be surprised if I don’t answer your phone call or knock on the door. I’ll probably be downstairs lost in the past as I look through some part of my somewhat dusty but still precious collection of old stuff.



  1. I’ve recently packed or neatly hoarded my ‘old stuff’ in containers categorized by B.C (before children) and AD (after delivery or ‘doption), roughly about a quarter century each. All my treasures have an adventurous tale that no one cares about hearing. My BC container includes: the troll from the late 60’s that I use to bring on long family car rides that got my 2 younger brothers in trouble for laughing too loud all the time, souvenirs from Germany when my best friend and I went to spend 5 weeks with my grandparents, first love notes and tokens of affection, all my very outdated teaching supplies that ” I will use again someday,” wedding planner, ring bearer pillow… My AD container is loaded with new baby stuff, pictures of the new house before we moved in, Korean paraphernalia that Emily came home with, “You-are-the-best-mommy-in-the-world” child-made cards in crayon… Sadly, now that I am slightly over 50 and almost an EN (“empty nester”), I’ll be starting a new container in the next few years. I can’t even imagine (and maybe I don’t want to) what will be in this container.
    I’ll trade you my ring bearer’s pillow for your clay dinosaur. Na, maybe not- I like my old stuff.

    • Thanks for sharing that! It almost killed me to do it, but one thing I did get rid of was my old school supply box (complete with mimeograph masters and old register-style lesson plan books). By the way, how does your hubby feel about your “collection”?

      • Thank GOD for attics. All my stuff in stored away for- the future?
        Vinny has his own “stuff.”
        Marriage rule #1: Thou shalt not touch your stuff and you don’t touch mine = ‘…and they lived happily ever after…’

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