We all tend to accumulate too much stuff — especially the more time we spend living in one dwelling. In those scenarios we assert we have “put down roots,” but closer examination of those roots will likely reveal crevices stuffed with — stuff.
The appliance we never get around to repairing. The golf clubs for next spring when we plan to get our game going again. The books we have not touched in years but have kept for that day we will enjoy them again.
We abdicate our attics, basements and garages to stuff. In some cases we rent space to store our stuff. We treat that stuff as though every item brought into our home came down from on high — the clouds parted and in the hand of God we beheld a glass-and-chrome TV stand.
Ah, but there is a fine line between items of honest value and stuff disguised as treasure. At a dinner party one evening someone cast this question: “If you had to evacuate your house, and you knew every family member would get out safely, what one thing would you grab?”
One quick-thinking married gentleman said he’d grab the wedding picture album, scoring cheap points. Others suggested their exquisite jewelry, the family Bible, ancestral heirlooms — all manner of things we hold dear. No one mentioned mundane items like the curtains in the front room or the microwave — at least they didn’t say it out loud.
I pondered the question again this week as construction Dumpsters started appearing around our little corner of heaven. The recent storms caused substantive flooding in several Sandy Springsteens’ homes to the extent that hundreds of sodden household sundries are now landfill fodder.
A majority of the detritus hardly falls into the category of irreplaceable. I would hate for the big red chair in our living room to be ruined by flood or fire, but the world is full of big red chairs. I would prefer the computer I am typing this on not float away, but it also falls under the heading of “gone today, replaced tomorrow.”
However, from where I sit at this moment I can see things that could not be replaced. Amelia’s painting of Atlanta during the 1996 Summer Olympics. A framed silhouette of Zach when he was 5. The picture of the only soccer team both Zach and Amelia played on — the one that went undefeated.
Hanging in the closet is the dress Carol wore 11 years ago when we got married. The thought of it being ruined and having to go into a Dumpster is unacceptable. Downstairs is a desk my grandfather Osterman, a railroad auditor, acquired when a station was closing.
None of the above would bring riches in a yard sale but all are priceless in our home. Sadly, we required flooded basements to recognize that which is invaluable from what is simply stuff.
Jim Osterman lives in Sandy Springs.
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