2002.06.12 Offering my junk to the curbside pickup

Written by David Green.


Remember that song made popular by Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons? It goes something like this:

Let’s hang on to what we got 

Don’t let go, Col, we got a lot

Got a lot of junk between us 

Hang on, hang on, hang on

To what we got 

[doo-doo doo-doo doo-doo]

Well, that’s how the love song might go if my husband were singing it. We have a whole lot of junk between us.

We even have stuff in our basement that was here before we moved into our house more than 16 years ago. Stuff we really should have gotten rid of ages ago but for one reason or another—too heavy, serving some purpose, seemed like it could serve a purpose some day—we never put this junk out.

David doesn’t visit the basement as often as I do.

“What did the previous owners leave here besides a bucket of ashes?” he asks.

“Two buckets of ashes,” I remind him.

“We have that weird triangular green couch,” I continue.

 It’s easy to forget this couch. Tucked away in the corner of a little room in the basement, it’s covered with model airplanes and ships that Ben made years ago, an old cracked glass pitcher that came from David’s grandmother which is why we continue to keep it—intending to repair it—scraps of plasterboard, and other assorted odds and ends. But the hideous green still shows through.

And now that we’re ready to discard it in the big city-wide clean-up Saturday, we don’t want people to think it’s really ours.

“We could cover it with a blue tarp,” he suggests.

Hmm, could we use the blue tarp treatment for the stuff we’re not putting out? Because the clutter doesn’t end in the basement.

If I told you how long little bottles of nail polish, sample bottles of shampoo and bubble bath, deodorant bottles, tubes of lip balm, errant Q-Tips and cotton balls, have been falling out of the bathroom cupboard every time its door is opened, you probably wouldn’t let your kids or grandkids play with my kids. I’ve fully intended to tackle this task but once you shove the stuff back in and shut the door, it’s easy to forget until the next morning when it all tumbles out again and then of course, there isn’t time.

Somehow, Sunday became cleaning day. My to-do list did not originally include cupboard de-cluttering, but when I had to wrestle the falling bottles during a search for a back-up bottle of sunscreen, I knew it just couldn’t be put off anymore. David had misplaced the sunscreen he’d used just the day before and I was sure additional bottles could be found nestled in their own little basket of like items: Summer Lotions (sunscreen and bug repellent).

Finding the little basket meant removing the two travel bags of toiletries, the Klutz Press face painting book, the bag of cotton balls, and an assorted mess of bottles (refer to the falling items above).

Once all that was out, there was no stopping me. I decluttered and organized with wild abandon. You’d never know it to look in the cupboard or the trash, though. I could only let go of an essentially empty can of mousse, several tubes of lip balm, various toothpaste tubes with just a tiny bit left (some kid seems to replace them with a full tube before getting every last bit out), and a few trial samples of shampoo and such.

I worry about the poor example I’m setting for my kids. Will they repeat the pattern and make a home with too much stuff cluttering their lives? But I think back to a game we played on the way to New York for spring break. I had brought along the book, From Around the Family Table: 365 Mealtime Conversations for Parents and Children by Ronda Coleman, and the kids humored me by calling out numbers and I read the thought provoking questions.

The condensed version of number nine: You have 10 minutes to get out of your house due to an impending wildfire raging nearby. What do you take with you?

They, and their friends who accompanied us, hashed around a few things such as a pillow, clothes and pictures, but ultimately concluded that the material things don’t really matter.

Now, if I could hang on to that thought, I might be able to let a few more items join the ugly green couch at the curb.

    – June 12, 2002
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