Old Stuff

May 17, 2015


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 vintage superhero toy in its original box 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, notably by Steve Hartman on the CBS Sunday Morning Show, that featured others of this bent. And third, the fact that today, May 17, has been designated by Those Who Should Know as Pack Rat 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. 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.



One comment

  1. Ha! Mark and I were right about what’s in your basement

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