About Moving, ТThingsУ and ТStuffУ

My family and I have just made our second move in a little more than two years and what confuses me is how we could have accumulated so much “stuff” while we were purging, simplifying, and streamlining.

Two years ago we moved from a 2,400-square-foot home in Georgia where we’d been for about 25 years. We’d raised three kids there with all the trials and tribulations that go with life and we had filled the attic and all spare space with “things” and “stuff”--some things we’d used a lot, some things we seldom saw and some stuff, when we unburied it from the attic, we wondered why we had it in the first place.

So we purged--we had yard sales, we sold things online, we donated to Goodwill, we gave things away and we moved into an 1,800-square-foot rental home in South Carolina. We thought, “Yeah, now we are going to get lean and mean, no extra dead weight, no attic to fill up. We are going to live like Spartans, shed our worldly goods and be free.”

So how, I ask you, when we recently packed up to move to Alabama, did we then manage to fill up first one 26-foot moving truck, then an additional unanticipated 17-footer, along with packing a large SUV, a truck, a boat and a small SUV to the max? 

We are in the process of moving into a 2,400-square-foot home on the banks of the Tensaw River in Bay Minette, Ala., and at this writing we are sitting amidst a sea of boxes and bubble-wrap covering furniture and “stuff” that threatens to overrun us.

As I stare in dumbfounded amazement at the accumulation of life, it makes me wonder if maybe we could be candidates for one of those hoarder shows.

But no, that can’t be, because both my wife and myself are all about open spaces and uncluttered surroundings. We both express the desire to live in an airy and bright home. We both yearn for a home where everything has a place and there’s a place for everything.

We haven’t reached that level of utopia as of yet.

I’ve got some things I’ve been carrying around for years because “someday” I might need them. Indeed, there have been times I was glad I had them because, like an insurance policy, when you need it you really need it; very few times, granted, but still…

But there is other stuff that I hang on to because--well, I’m not really sure why! 

For example, I have one of those padded, rolling foot-lockers that weighs about 100 pounds and I’m not even sure what’s in it. 

OK, I just checked what’s in it. Among other stuff, there’s a stack of baseball caps I never wear. I have my two or three favorites I use and these others just accumulate. Why do I have them?  Good question. The rest of the things in there are a mystery; it’s all in smaller boxes and bags.  This could be a purge point.

Then there’s the plastic container of various ink jet photo paper; I think the last time I actually printed a picture was when President Clinton (Bill) was in office. Why do I hang on to them – a rhetorical question really, the fact is I do.

I could go on and on about the things I have that I will probably never use. 

I suppose I keep some things because they have sentimental value; someone whose friendship I valued gave them to me so I attach value to that object.

Some I keep them for historical purposes; research and papers on various articles I have written in the past, material that would be valuable if I ever approach those subjects again. In the world of photojournalism it’s called my “morgue.” I have often reached back into the morgue as well.

My guitars and sound system--these are essential for my psychological balance--but collectively, they do take up a bit of room.  I’ve actually culled them, “thinned the herd,” as we say.  I sold those I didn’t consider essential and kept only those I valued. 

But as my wife tells me, you can only play one at a time so why do you need so many;  another good, albeit rhetorical, question. However, during the move I did discover a guitar I’d forgotten I had, so maybe I do need to re-examine my thinking in this area.

My lovely bride also has her stuff and things that take up space; and then there’s just the bulk of other household stuff. Modern living requires lots and lots of stuff and things.

As I survey the remaining boxes with their contents I know that with a bit of patience and tenacity, we will work through them and eventually find a place for everything. It may not be a permanent place; in fact items may find several different homes before settling into a final spot.

However, I wonder; should I be finding spots for this stuff just to get it out of the way; out of sight, out of mind until the next move? Or, should I be evaluating each item before I put it away and asking, “Do I really need this?”

As much as I’d like to do the latter, I think circumstances will push me more into doing the former. I will make my best effort, but I know that life won’t wait for me to make emotional decisions about toss or no-toss. 

I also know that if I don’t get rid of some of these boxes I’ll go crazy, so I believe in this case sanity trumps propriety. Guess I’ll be keeping most of this stuff until next move.                       

Randy Gaddo, a retired Marine who also served for 15 years in municipal parks and recreation, is now a full-time photojournalist who lives in Beaufort, S.C.; he can be reached at (678) 350-8642 or email cwo4usmc@comcast.net.