STUFF: WHAT IT MEANS AND WHAT TO DO WITH IT

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No, this is not an abstract sculpture. Actually, too bad it isn’t. It could stay as is. Nope; it is a 10 by 10 storage room at a storage facility in New York. It is filled with items that came from the home we sold three plus years ago.

At the time, I had a plan. There were four choices for the contents of the house: throw away, give away, keep and store. To be sure many many things were in first two categories. But, when I couldn’t decide what to keep, I to storage it went. I use “I “ because I was doing the heavy lifting, not my family for reasons too complex And private to share. Thus, the above “warehouse” was created. And I was never there; I just paid for it monthly. The movers got all the things into my room.

Recently, I decided it was high time to do something with this room. I wanted to visit it, take photos of the contents of each box, show those items that neither I nor my family wanted to some auctioneers. I figured this was a tough but doable task. I did worry about what the memories the contents would evoke — slowing the process as I reflect on my earlier life …. Both the positive and negative aspects.

So, I get to the warehouse, no small trick by the by, and am led to “my” room. They open the door and there, from floor to ceiling are boxes. They are labeled to be sure but they are heavy. There is a ladder on the side.

I try to move some of the closest boxes, including that wrapped item in the front. Hum. Not so possible. I literally climb up on boxes to see what is at the top where the ceiling is to identify the boxes behind the high up boxes. I then realize that that was totally unwise. In addition to possibly falling, there was no way to get any boxes I found and wanted down — alone. Yes, as noted, there was a ladder and I thought of climbing up but how exactly would I get the boxes down? Boxes upon boxes. Heavy boxes.

Bottom line, this is not a task for one person and beats me why I didn’t quite get this before I even arranged this trip. So I reached out to the initial mover via email, and she and her team will meet me at this facility in early 2020 and we will go through every box — with the same strategy we used initially: throw away, give away, keep and store if needed. Goal: a storage room 1/4 the size and price of what I have today. Why stuff could now be thrown out or given away when three years ago it could not is the issue to consider.

I get this is a four stage process: deciding what to do with what’s there in my room; auctioning off some items and keeping, discarding and disposing of (giving away) other items.

The last stage: reflecting on the memories the contents of the boxes evoke: what matters from them and what is represented by what’s in them. Not simple for sure. And, memories will flow I am sure. Even with the closed boxes that were vaguely labeled, I could “feel” my past inside cardboard.

Recently, a former (as in 45 years ago) boyfriend (Initials BC lest we get confused) responded to some of my online posts. He looked at my profile. He seemed to forget the bad ending to our relationship (really bad) where I believed firmly that he disrespected my sexual limits (I was 19 at the time and he was 24) and then he accused me of being “wrongheaded.” His actual words were way worse. He put them in writing even.

I reminded him offline of his bad actions — I now had voice enough to assert loudly, and he responded with copies of four letters I had written to him in 1971 — and even now he missed how clear I was In those letters about my limits and his limit crossing in words and deeds.

But the letters he had kept (beats me why) reminded me of the warehouse. Who keeps what from their past? I get keeping letters from one’s first love or the person one marries or has as a life partner. I get keeping letters from family. But who keeps letters from a 19 year old girl who didn’t love you and thought you sexually assaulted her. Who keeps them for 45 plus years?

Seriously, ask yourselves: why do we keep what we keep?

I asked the personnel at the warehouse how long most people leave things. They answered wisely: months to decades. And what do they do with the items? They answered wisely again: throw most all of it out.

Now I don’t want to throw everything out. There are some sentimental items that have meaning … the books I read to my son when he was young, my (yes my) basketball card collection, some stuffed animals our son adored, some antique tools within the larger collection that can be sold.

I have no letters from boyfriends of 45 years ago. But I I do have memories that aren’t stored. Bottom line: warehouses hold pieces of our past and shed light on our present. My sense from my initial visit: Tread lightly when you go to a warehouse to see your past. Pots can be stirred.

Written by

Author, Educator & Commentator; Former President, Southern Vermont College; Former Senior Policy Advisor, US Dept. of Education; Former Law Professor

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