Monday, September 19, 2011


by Gina Sestak

I don't think I'm going to be doing a lot of writing this week.  In fact, I expect to be spending most of the time I'm not at work or in a class just trying to clear out one room in my house.  You know what a house is, right?  It's a roof and four walls that contains your stuff and that's my problem.  Too much stuff.

I don't think I'm a hoarder.  Not exactly.  There are no animal carcasses or feces in the mess, just old clothes and old furniture and lots and lots and lots of books.   Way too many books.  Things that used to belong to dead people.  Things friends left behind when they moved on.  I have an Irish harp a college housemate made himself, then left behind.  It has so many strings I've never been able to get them all in tune at once.  Two statues that belonged to the grandmother of a friend who moved away.   Afghans crocheted by my own grandmother, packed in a cedar chest that used to be my Mom's.  Tons of things my ex- left when he moved.  Paintings done by my mother.  My grandmother's piano and dressers.  The rocking chair my brother and I bought for my mother many years ago.  The terrariums I used to keep my pet mice in, back when I used to have pet mice.  Family pictures.  Outdated technology, non-working tvs and printers and toaster ovens.  Two broken coffee tables and at least a dozen broken lamps.  Big boxes of Christmas ornaments that rarely get put up.  Old shoes.   Cassette tapes that I haven't listened to in years.  And shelves.  A lot of shelves, most of them full of books.

Then there are the unpublished manuscripts, multiple versions piled all over everything, and a half a dozen copies of the one hardback book I co-authored that managed to get published.  The magazines I used to edit.  Things friends have written.  Other magazines.  Hundreds of magazines.  Paper and pens.  Games.  Notebooks, references, materials from conferences, keepsakes from travels.  Gifts - the ones I want to keep, the ones I haven't given yet, and wrapping paper for the latter.  Ribbon.  Odd calendars and weird little blankets and flimsy rosaries sent by charities I've donated to.   Two old guitars, both out of tune.  Couches and tables and chairs.  Camping supplies and a sleeping bag.  Extra coat hangers.  Cat food and litter boxes.  VCR tapes and dvds.  CDs.  Exercise equipment.  Food.  Extra sheets; an entire extra bed to put them on.  Old towels.  Coat rack.  Coats and jackets.  Plants and long-vacated planters.  Garden tools and potting soil.  Boxes things arrived in.  

It's taken years for everything to build up.  Even a house fire in 1994 didn't help much.  The stuff came back, a little worse for having been smoked and watered before being cleaned by the professional restoration company.   These folks even washed and returned the jars I had set aside to be recycled!

I'm working on the stuff now because my best friend from college will be moving in with me next weekend.  She's been living out of state for decades, but now she's been on unemployment for awhile down South and found a job up here.   She needs a room, and I am happy to oblige.  I just need to figure out what to do with all the stuff . . .

What do you do with all the stuff?


Karen in Ohio said...

Holy crow, Gina!

Five years ago, my father-in-law died in their family home for 65 years, which my bachelor brother-in-law inherited. No one did anything about the house or the stuff inside, so I took charge (or it would STILL be sitting there, I'm telling you), and started clearing stuff out.

Furniture was offered to the six grandchildren first. Only two of them wanted anything; one of the two sent a moving van, and she pretty much furnished her new home that way. I gave each of the granddaughters one of Grandma's old blue handkerchiefs so they could carry "something blue" on their wedding days. Each of the three sons split whatever art they wanted, and the rest went at an estate sale.

After that experience I looked around and decided to shovel out so my own kids would not have to deal with figuring out what to do with vases from the 40's, and thousands of old plastic containers, and 65 years' worth of financial records. 20 carloads of stuff went to Goodwill, the paper shredding place (that was two FULL carloads, up to the windows), and to the dump. The library came and got 1,000 donated books.

That was four years ago. You can hardly tell I did anything, still. But it's better than it was. And I am no longer opening closet doors worried that I'll be buried alive.

Patg said...

I have a thing about selling, so I sort my sell or give to Goodwill. That's it or the garbage.
Of course, that's my stuff. Karen, I too had to go through everything in my husband's house when he died suddenly. That was hard, but I have a lot of places to donate and his favorite charity, Veterans, had a pick up service. Everything else was sold.

Anonymous said...

I should have mentioned that a lot of the stuff was my grandmother's. She moved it (and herself) to my Aunt Ruth's before she died. Then Aunt Ruth died and stuff went to my mother's. Then my mother died . . .
Sometimes I feel like the family repository.

C.L. Phillips said...

After you clean it all out, make a new rule. Nothing comes in the house unless you take something out of the house.

goodwill/garage sale/trash, it doesn't matter.

This, dear friends is know around our house as "Conservation of Mass", one of the basic laws of physics. :)

And shoes are NOT exempt from the rule.

Annette said...

I love that George Carlin bit.

And I'm with the others. Yard sale! What's left that's worth anything, donate. What's left that ISN'T worth anything goes in the trash.

And I realize, that's all easier said than done.