I have been telling my daughters for years they don’t need so much junk. My younger daughter just moved out. I have been cleaning up behind her, the trash, the gunk stuck to the floor, the mold on the bathroom ceiling and tile and, yes, the junk she left behind. Half the junk was stuff I gave her. I have reached the life stage where my daughters say things like “I can’t believe I said that. I sound just like Mom.” I can’t believe they said THAT. I can’t believe the evidence shows I am a pack rat just like my parents, just like my kids.
What does it prove? It proves I am like my Mom. She complained that Dad wouldn’t throw anything away, flat surfaces existed to pile stuff on. Mainly papers and books, though that didn’t exempt keys, billfolds, clothes, tools, food, cameras, binoculars. She said he loved modern architecture, white furniture, towels, walls, stainless steel, open spaces. Of course. How better to show case *stuff*? And who could dispute that his stuff stood out. She said if he died first she would hire a bulldozer. Well, she missed her chance and died first. Eleven years ago and he and his stuff are still here.
When he asked for help cleaning her stuff out, I thought, how hard could it be? I learned how long elastic lasts before it breaks – dozens of panty hose in every size (you never know), learned you never can have too much travel size Kleenex or costume jewelry and both my parents were sentimental about saving papers. When it came to the medicine cabinet I found a bottle of Milk of Magnesia expired in 1972. Dad, the chemist, tried to stop me from tossing it, saying Magnesium Hydroxide is inert. I said pathogens, aren’t, winning that round. I took the Kleenex. Still have two packs.
My older brother IS my Dad. If it passes the sniff test and is inert, it must be edible. They aren’t dead yet probably because they grow undiscovered strains of antibiotics in their refrigerators. They are wonders of science. Their studies, on the other hand, are safety hazards.
My strategy of collection is to rotate hobbies. My husband once counted fifteen hobbies since we have been married, which is roughly one new hobby a year. Actually, it is more, but I didn’t tell him. For every hobby, more stuff, which requires a certain amount of accommodation. Antiques and dogs are relatively permanent acquisitions, for example, whereas, parrots, thank God, didn’t go beyond a few books, which were sold at a garage sale. Sewing and knitting had to agree to share a closet and required downsizing. The garage was converted to a hot house when gardening was in full swing. Fortunately, plants die. Grown daughters are useful and I must either be a coward or have a cruel streak or maybe I’m just inconsistent because whenever I need to divest of “stuff,” I know it never need go far. Although, if I’m cruel, the joke is on me, because when it is time for a daughter to move, the stuff comes home to roost. One bedroom and the garage is filled with stuff I thought I had seen the back end of. Three months ago, I threatened to sell it all at garage sale if it didn’t disappear and it is still sitting there. There is a message in this for someone and I am thinking it just might be me.