Every day I look at the five cartons of papers still sitting in my closet where I put them when I moved here seven years ago. Every day, I promise to “get rid of them.”
Ben Franklin said it — “If your possessions are yours, why don’t you take them to heaven?”
Could he have been talking about those five cartons of files I’m still trying to get rid of? Or maybe that pretty skirt still in my closet whose size I’ll never fit?
Homer had it right when he said, “These riches are possessed but not enjoyed.”
These wise men are long gone, but they sure had it right about all that “stuff” we older people keep and clutter our homes with. We spend the first half of our lives collecting stuff and the second half getting rid of it.
Why am I so hyper? Because I looked at the five cartons of papers still sitting in my closet where I put them when I moved here seven years ago. Every day, I promise to “get rid of them.” Never mind what I have in my storage bin in another room. Add I am one of few residents with three four-drawer file cabinets in her apartment, also stuffed.
Whoever said that computers would get rid of paperwork didn’t know beans. Every week I get several statements from Medicaid, from Supplemental, from stores. Thanks to the age of frivolous lawsuits, everyone puts on permanent paper what they did — and we get a copy to keep. Yesterday I shredded a 30-gallon sack of these.
So, on my 81st birthday, I said, “Get rid of this stuff; don’t leave it for Sis to do after you die.” (As far as my doctor and I know at this moment, death is not imminent, but at 81 it’s a possibility around the corner.)
Of course, when I sold my home and moved into an apartment, I got rid of a lot of “stuff” — a piano, some furniture, 300 books, a lawn mower. But not my memorabilia or papers.
Also, we elders always think, “I might use this later.” Papa was a saver, too. He had a ball of string in the basement big enough to kill you if he threw it at you. Trouble is, we’re like the squirrel I see dashing in front of the patio here. They seem to be saying, “Now where did I bury that nut?” Once we stash a “treasure,” we seldom remember we have it or where.
One advantage to waiting until now to throw it out is that I see the “stuff” in a different light. “Who cares what I recorded in this important memo 25 years ago during a corporate crisis?” Everyone involved is dead. My only regret is that if I had done this each year, I could be outside enjoying a ball game instead of in here running a shredder until it’s smoking.
As for the books, while I still have two seven-shelf bookcases stuffed, some are essential — thesaurus, dictionary, reference books on writing. Some are old favorites I can’t part with. These, plus some albums, make the floor groan.
And the question comes back to “Who cares?” Who cares about an old photo taken with Edward R. Murrow in Chicago in 1960? Or a hilarious photo of an old friend?
Sir Edward Loke said, “For a man’s home is his castle.” Maybe, but when our castle becomes a junkyard of “stuff,” we need to pitch it out, restore our castle to a comfy home.
Do we have the courage to do it today, or do we leave this mess to our survivors?
Jean Nero writes for The Repository in Canton, Ohio.