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You guys are making me nervous.

No, not you guys who’ve wished me well on my upcoming move to the Northwest. Not you guys who’ve given much-appreciated advice on pellet stoves and wood stoves. Not you guys (this means you, Jake MacGregor) who’ve even offered unloading assistance, hammer swinging, or spare furniture. Not you who’ve commiserated about fatal rattlesnakes, near-fatal winds, and death-defying doggies. Not you who’ve offered tips on cool NW bookstores and other places to go. You … I thank you all.

But you guys (and wimmins) — you know who you are — you who’ve warned me that the mere possession of a house with rooms (and especially an attic and a basement) could lead me to suffer the fate of the Collyer brothers, dying of accumulation — you make me nervous.

I tell myself, No, I’m not a hoarder. Anything but. I’m somebody who has shed possessions happily and moved on. So when the first warning came — from Oliver, the webmaster of this very website — I laughed it off. After all, I’m no Oliver, a man who lives in a giant old house and will probably stay there forever.

I’ve been a gypsy without inclination for so much baggage.

I didn’t really begin to worry until someone named John left this truly ominous comment at the end of one of my blog posts. Said John:

I moved from a fifth wheel to a house in 1999, it was a good change.

Stuff has followed me in the door a couple things at a time and the place has just filled up. Beware, “stuff” multiplies when you are sleeping.

Now, as I finish boxing up all the things that are to go into the U-Haul trailer tomorrow, I begin to wonder. Stuff sneaks in and breeds when you are sleeping …?

I’m moving from a fifth-wheel. And before that I moved from a one-room house. Yet … there’s stuff all over the place. Stuff in every cranny, every drawer, every shelf of the pantry. It’s in the barn. In the workshop. In the power shed. It overwhelms every box that neighbor Joel and I dumpster-dived from behind the supermarket or scrounged from the saw shop.

I note as I vainly attempt to keep ahead of the ever-emerging stuff that most of it falls into two categories. The biggest category by far: Tools. Shop tools, art tools, jewelry-making tools, cooking tools, firearms and ammo, and all kinds of other tools. And related materials. The second killer category is food. Well, ya gotta be prepared, don’tcha?

I own only three pieces of furniture — and pieces is the operative term, as all three break down into small bits for easy transport.

So even though I possess all this stuff — this clearly multiplying stuff — I can still tell myself I won’t fall prey to the sort of stuff-collecting that fills homes with tottering heaps of 50-year-old Life magazines and giant balls of string or aluminum foil — let alone 14 assorted pianos and the chassis of a Model-T Ford. After all, my stuff is all very practical. Useful. And none of it was impulsively acquired or is compulsively kept.

Of course, there is that marvelous occasional table in the form of a glass circle resting on the heads of three giant brass geese (“like pink flamingos, only with class,” as Joel aptly described it). Which I bought just last weekend. Even as I had doubts about fitting everything into the trailer.

But well … anyone could see that that was an absolute must-have purchase. After all, my new house needs furnishings. And any devotee of estate sales would have realized in an instant — and totally understood! — that one simply doesn’t pass up an item like that. I mean, how many other opportunities will I have to buy three larger-than-lifesize geese with a tabletop on their craniums? Very few — as any reasonable person must acknowledge.

No, forget what I said about you making me nervous. You’re all completely wrong. Obviously, outrageously wrong. I’m in no danger of stuff accumulating around me, awake or asleep. I am ever vigilant against the gathering of things for the sake of things.

To the simple life — forever!


  1. Devin
    Devin August 11, 2010 5:22 pm

    We are in the same boat from a packing standpoint with our move West and trying to downsize our clutter.
    Good luck and Frith,

  2. ff42
    ff42 August 11, 2010 6:40 pm

    Newly married our stuff (mostly wedding gifts) fit in half the back of a pick-up. Ten years (and 4 kids) later our stuff did NOT fit in a 55ft semi-trailer. Now I am afraid to move. They are all wrong, stuff doesn’t it multiplies, it geometricates (geometrically replicates).

  3. Jim B.
    Jim B. August 11, 2010 6:54 pm

    Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha!

    Oh Claire,

    You’re funny! You should try comedy writing, you’l slay them.

    Stuff is like the rabbits in the Australian Outback. Let it go and they’ll overwhelm you before you can blink. There’s a reason why so many towns have so many “garage sales”, though I’d prefer to call them, “Garbage Sales”.

    Most people would probably need to have their houses burnt down before they move.

    Jim B.

  4. Pat
    Pat August 11, 2010 9:51 pm

    Well, I’ve never been a packrat either, but after 10 years in one place I’m holding a “garbage sale” myself this weekend — and it practically fills one room. Now quite a bit of it came from the bookstore – but quite a bit of it didn’t; _every room_ contributed generously.

    You’d better listen to the experts, Claire; the Guppy Syndrome is revving up even before you hit the road. (How else to explain that three-geese table?) It ain’t so simple to live “the simple life.”

  5. Kent McManigal
    Kent McManigal August 11, 2010 10:21 pm

    I am a packrat. I admit it. I kept all my stuff in storage and kept the storage unit paid up no matter how difficult it became while I was basically homeless for however many years it was. And, I’m glad I did. It gave me a sense of belonging and familiarity when I was finally able to unpack it recently.

    People have tried to make me feel guilty about my “stuff”, but it doesn’t work. I will throw some things away, but I am careful about it, and even have a sort of process that involves separating something out and thinking about it for a month or two before it goes.

    I love the old stuff my grandparents passed down to me, and if they hadn’t “hoarded” it, I wouldn’t have it now. So, follow your heart and accumulate, or not, as you like.

  6. Tracey Roberts
    Tracey Roberts August 11, 2010 11:43 pm

    LOL! It’s not the useless stuff that gets us homesteaders – it’s the stuff that “could” be useful and come in handy one of these days when we get around to this or that project! Especially when you get that stuff free or dirt cheap- who can turn down 43 dozen canning jars – especially when they’re mostly wide-mouthed? And so it begins…

    Enjoy the new place. Realize in advance you’re gonna fill it up with stuff, and console yourself that your stuff (unlike everyone else’s) will be useful and that you will actually use it (someday)!

  7. Mike R
    Mike R August 12, 2010 4:28 am

    My wife and I have an agreement that if it is not used within a year we let it go. That is the way it is supposed to work. In the real world that we live in there are boxes of stuff unopened from our last move in 2001. So be very careful that you don’t end up with pathways through the stuff in your home. ;~)

    So the adventure begins…

  8. Winston
    Winston August 12, 2010 5:52 am

    I’m not a packrat, per se….but when I acquire stuff I don’t need, I’m usually just too damn lazy to do anything but throw it in the corner.

    However there are some perks to having massive piles of crap you don’t care about. Like when I’m planning a range trip, I don’t have to look far to find stuff that’s fun to shoot at.

  9. Bill St. Clair
    Bill St. Clair August 12, 2010 6:14 am

    At least you’ll be entirely in control of your space. Put four people in a small house, one of whom doesn’t throw stuff away, for 19 years, and you end up with a very full house.

    Buyer’s remorse begone! Enjoy your trip and your new digs, Claire!

  10. Weetabix
    Weetabix August 12, 2010 6:24 am

    Here’s a technique to prevent acquiring too much stuff:

    1. Buy a cat.
    2. Once per week take the cat into each room (including attic and basement).
    3. Pick up the cat by the tail.
    4. Swing it around. If you don’t hurt the cat by banging it into stuff, you’re OK.
    5. Apply antiseptic and bandages freely. (To you, not the cat).

  11. Jolly
    Jolly August 12, 2010 6:52 am

    We shed god knows how much crap when we left Oregon in 2004. Then we shed two large U-Haul trailers full of crap ( and sold miscellaneous other crap ) when we moved across town in 2007.

    Now, we’re buried in crap again, and I’m slowly sifting through it and trying to give away as much as I can.

    All this is NOT including any extra supplies set aside for emergencies.

    Oh yeah, we have a large store room full of more crap, too.

    I, too, believe that with the sheer fecundity-of-crap I’m seeing, that clearly it’s breeding somehow. Unfortunately, the results of these assignations don’t seem to be too terribly useful, but just barely good enough to make it hard to just throw out.


  12. -S
    -S August 12, 2010 7:14 am

    Any deep discussion about stuff needs to review George Carlin’s wisdom:

  13. Chris
    Chris August 12, 2010 8:10 am

    I just happened on an Oprah Winfrey rerun about a older couple with a huge hoarding problem – a 3,000 sq. ft. home with 75 tons of items stuffed inside.

    The video is unbelievable. Only pathways barely wide enough to walk and clothes and other junk stacked 6 feet high throughout the house and basement.

  14. Victor Milan
    Victor Milan August 12, 2010 9:08 am

    The idea that having more room will in itself cause you to become a hoarder is as non-reality-based as Bushbama foreign policy.

    I know people in tiny apartments who can barely move because of Stuff.

    In my experience/observation Stuff needs to be rigorously controlled no matter what your living space. For too many years I was overwhelmed by my own accretion, until my friends helped out. I still have too much, and need more purging, but at least I’m no longer choked by clutter.

    To me those are the two best reasons for reining in Stuff: alleviating the psychic pressure of clutter, and the fact that being swamped with generic Stuff interfered with me getting to use the stuff I actually enjoy.

    As ever, YMMV.

  15. Bob L
    Bob L August 12, 2010 9:40 am

    You MUST be ever vigilant…..

    However, if you don’t tend to collect things, you won’t collect a LOT. But as you have found out, you will collect some things. For you (and me), TOOLS are the biggest problem. Each one has a use, otherwise you would not have gotten it. These are the hardest things to get rid of, so you need to be most vigilant about those.

    I recomend doing a clean through of each room at least twice, preferably 4 times a year. Organize, analyze and dispose of what you can.

    I would love to see photos of what you ahve for furniture, how much space your stuff takes up when you finally pack, how you organize your new house.

    Good luck. I know you will love your new place.

    Bob L

  16. Joe Mahoney
    Joe Mahoney August 12, 2010 11:03 am

    Reducing stuff is hard. When my parents sold the family farm in the mid 90’s to retire to Northern Arizona I had to help them reduce 3 generations of accumulated stuff spread between 2 houses, 2 huge machine shed’s, and 1 garage into 2 small u haul trailers one for them and one for me. It was truly heart breaking to have to thin down that much stuff with so much family history. The tools alone would have filled both u hauls. It was a learning experience.

  17. Evil Twin
    Evil Twin August 12, 2010 11:39 am

    Hey Claire! I must have had my head stuck someplace for the last 8 months, but I just came across this today. Glad to see you blogging again. Take care and drop me a line if you need anything.


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