“Well, I didn’t know it was an adult magazine!” my saintly mother insists, folding the black-veiled porno rag, tucking it inside the garbage can. “I thought it was, you know, stuff.”

While Mom dumps lunch leavings on top for safe measure, I picture her ordering the rancid publication from the door-to-door seller’s list.

And wonder how the person kept from cracking up.

“I can only imagine what the mailman must think!” she adds, shaking her head and toting the can outside.


Porn aside, we’re all attached to our stuff.

The most seemingly insignificant tchotchke can be layered with so much meaning that it physically hurts when it shatters across the floor. (And more so when it’d received a little nudge.)

And yet, it’s just stuff—tangible reminders of experiences, the memories from which are far more valuable than the physical things.

Still, we have so many things. Like security blankets, our stuff buffers us against the things we try to avoid thinking about every single day—that things could fall apart; that we could be left with nothing; that all of this is transitory; that there’s really no point in having all of it.

And in a very basic way, it all anchors us to a place we may no longer want to be.

Yet, we’re still hesitant to part with any of it.

It’s like we want to stay shackled to a place.

Get larger and larger spaces to fill, only so the voids in our lives seem less expansive.

But, why the stuff?

For some sense of stability? Or rootedness?

I mean, who hasn’t yearned for both?

As a shovel bum, I once believed tranquility follows stasis. 

And yet, post-shovel bum days, I’ve found myself moving constantly, like a hummingbird to flowering plants—flitting here and there, my thirst never being quenched.

So I’ve started to wonder if this is normal. If, like Earth itself, everyone keeps moving. Even if we’re standing still. (And not in the Jewel sense, either.) 

If I’ll fluctuate from one extreme to the other—maximalist to minimalist with one fell load of a Penske truck—and not even notice.

Or care.


We’ve been conditioned to measure our success in life by how much stuff we’ve accumulated. That if we have little, we are little. 

But I haven’t changed for the worse when I’ve shed a ton of junk.

In fact, I’ve felt freer. Even more enlightened.

Still, Andy and I have three bedrooms, a dining room, a kitchen, a bathroom, three closets, and a living room chocked-full of stuff. (And we won’t even talk about the emergency escape–the back staircase.)


Sometimes, though, it just makes sense to let go. Being less encumbered affords mobility.

And right now, that seems pretty damn desirable.

At least until we land somewhere where our jobs aren’t draining us; where we can breathe a bit easier; where we have the same rights as our neighbors.

We don’t want much, and we don’t expect the world to be fair.

But I do know that the cut glass punch bowl won’t help us achieve these things. I’ve never made punch in it. And probably never will. (Hence, why it’s full of cars.)  

Punched out

Neither will the cool hexagonal chair I bought because it was cool and hexagonal. And that we rarely use.

What a hex...

Nor will the lot of carnival glass–my first auction purchase–that we use sparingly.

Glassed over

Neither will my first refinishing project: the chair I once used to facilitate a life-saving self-Heimlich maneuver. Its payment for being so generous? The closet. It deserves better.

Life saver...

Nor will a bazillion wine and martini and juice glasses. Because there’re only two of us. And when we actually do have time to throw a party, we’re probably not going to feel like washing them all. (I can attest, it sucks.)

Hangover enablers...

Nor will more chairs. 

A fierce dust collector...

And certainly never will the things I only bought because they were cute or pretty or interesting and have never used. (Yes, little milk glass salt and pepper shakers, I’m looking at you.) 

Shake, shake, shake...on out of here

It’s all here.

Clogging space we don’t really need.

Trapping the memories that we do.

Preventing us from leaving and making more.


As both a physical place and mental concept, home is fluid.

So why shouldn’t its composition change every now and then?

Especially when the most valuable possession I have is right beside me, holding my hand. 


4 Replies to “Stuff-ed”

  1. Matt, you are learning early what many of us have taken years to understand. Yes, we hang on to things that hold our memories, even sad memories. But the memories will stay. The “things” pile up and add to our burdens, tying us to places and times, when we should be moving forward. Free yourself so that if opportunity calls, you can put everything that matters in two boxes and jump on that chance to be what you want to be. The memories will go with you.

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