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Adam’s Apples – Too much stuff

By James Mack Adams

Have you ever looked around your house and decided you have too much stuff? Do you at times hesitate to buy new stuff you would like to have because you have no place to put more stuff? The house, attic and basement are filled with stuff. Forget about parking the car in the garage because the garage is filled with stuff.

I would guess that, like me, some of the stuff you own you haven’t used for years. Other stuff you probably have forgotten you have. You hesitate to get rid of stuff because someday you might need the stuff you discard. Right?   

If this subject seems familiar to some of you, that is because it probably is. Now deceased comedian, George Carlin, once did a hilarious standup routine on the subject of “Stuff.” I recently re-watched a video of Carlin’s routine to insure I would not plagiarize. The comments I write here are my own, but a thank you and a tip of the hat goes to Carlin for giving me the idea for this column.

I really didn’t worry about having too much stuff until I got older and decided it was the time in my life to downsize. I needed to unload a lot of my stuff. How much stuff does a person need? I looked around my house and said, “What am I going to do with all this stuff?” 

Getting rid of unwanted stuff is sometimes hard to do. Our first thought might be to give our stuff, or at least some of our stuff, to our children and grandchildren. Often, however, our children and grandchildren don’t want our stuff because they have their own stuff and no place to put more stuff.    

So, what are some alternatives?

Of course, there is the ever-popular garage or yard sale. We move some of our stuff to the yard or garage and hope some folks will stop and buy our stuff. People who buy our stuff take it home and put it with their stuff. Those people will probably someday complain about having too much stuff and will have their own yard sale. It’s a vicious cycle.

If we are feeling charitable, we can always give our stuff away. Goodwill and other charitable outlets will usually be glad to get our unwanted stuff. It could be just the stuff for which their customers are looking. At tax time, the IRS will allow us a deduction for the value of the stuff we give to charity.

When I decided to move permanently back to my East Tennessee roots a few years ago, I found myself faced once again with the problem of too much stuff. I had a condo in Georgia that was filled with stuff. That included the two attics and a garage full of stuff. Much of the stuff had been with me for a good chunk of my life and evoked fond memories. As you know, that is the kind of stuff with which a person hates to part. Once again, I asked myself: “What am I going to do with all this stuff?”

I gave some of the stuff to family, but I still had a lot of stuff left. So, I pursued another option … the estate sale. After I signed the contract, the folks representing the estate sale company told me my worries were over. They said they would handle everything, for a fee of course. I could take a vacation and they would dispose of all my stuff. That’s what they did. Most of the stuff was sold. Some of the stuff was donated. Like most people, I suppose, I had some stuff that was broken or otherwise useless. That stuff was trashed.    

It occurs to me we spend the first three quarters of our lives accumulating a lot of stuff, and the final quarter of our lives trying to get rid of our stuff. 

I read recently that some younger people, who are called millennials, are deciding it is better to own less stuff. Millennials are defined as people born between the years 1981 and 1996. They would now be between the ages of 22 and 37. 

The term ‘minimalists’ is often used to describe those who embrace this stuff-free lifestyle. To the minimalist way of thinking, the less stuff a person owns the better off they are. They say owning less stuff makes them feel less encumbered, freer, and therefore happier. 

They may have an arguable point.