Friday, May 15, 2009

Things, Things, Things

I’ve always admired people able ruthlessly to rid themselves of trash. But I always have to curb that thought when once I have it. Another rapidly follows: “Why do they buy so much? That end-table there: it’s as good as new. That huge, ugly plastic toy: it looks like no child ever touched it.”

A family joke when going shopping: “Let’s be patriotic.”

Many years ago (at least thirty) I read a sci-fi short in which consumption is mandatory and under-shopping subject to incarceration. I wish I’d noted the author’s name. I’ve cited that story a hundred times in conversation.

At the moment I’m guilty of rescuing a pristine edition of a World Book Encyclopedia from someone’s trash. The story is told here. Do I need it? Good heavens no! Something’s out of joint: in me and also those who bought and tossed those never-opened thirty volumes.

We’re planning a big move after twenty years in the same house. Just as I begin the first shocked inspection of our clogged spaces here, I haul back thirty more volumes when I ought to stage about a thousand or more for disposition. And that’s just books. Madness.

Now ours is not by any measure a high-consumption household. We’re both children of World War II and of its half-starved aftermath in Europe. Yet things accrue. Indeed they accrue because, though useless now, they might come in handy someday. Tough times ahead. I’ll have to become the people I admire. Woe is me.

Things, things, things.

2 comments:

  1. The perspective of somebody with a smaller house is a bit different. What I found was that once Monique and I had filled up the house and the garage, the acquisitive instinct was significantly dampened, while the urge to throw was proportionately strengthened.

    I think it's as simple as the fact that humans acquire stuff to fill the space available. Why do you have a lot of stuff? Because you have a lot of space in which to keep it.

    In retrospect, we probably should've tried to persuade you guys to buy the place in Walled Lake with the barn in back that was for sale last year. That way you would've had all the storage place you could possibly want while also claiming virtues of thrift and conservation for making good use of a structure that would otherwise stand empty. Over time, that might've let you sift out the stuff that lived in the barn from the items that were truly "home-worthy."

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  2. Though we think we have the house we want, keep your eyes peeled for the lonely barn that might be longing for our trash...

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