Monday, April 11, 2011


"A house is a pile of stuff with a cover on it." -- George Carlin

No wonder we're so rudderless, so deprived of any intelligent leadership: George is gone. He'll be missed especially because he won't ever be replaced -- his hammer hit the nail squarely on the head. Our heads, rather.

No other generation than ours has had so much disposable wealth to waste, or acquired more stuff, than ours. A blessing with a big curse hidden inside it. Now that we're seeing these old people in the mirror, we come upon the time in life when we must downsize or be hideously inconsiderate and leave the next generations to move it or get rid of it.

Here at Chez Rice, we're trying our level best, but sometimes it's like dipping out the ocean with a 1-cup measure. I've torn into the basement several times, and there's barely one or two more square feet of space freed up. The garage defies me; even with our small car, you have to be oh so careful opening the doors to avoid hitting the treasures and necessities lining three walls. If I could stack stuff against the door and still use it, I probably would. The only thing that redeems the situation is that some people will never get the car into the garage again; when you get to that point, your stuff owns your butt forever.

Because of our numbers and the mountains of stuff we have, selling or giving away some of this loot is becoming harder, according to recent news reports. Even the charity agencies are swamped. A good indicator is that we now see stuff of a quality that never appeared there before. What a conundrum: you can get expensive barely used stuff for very little -- and you don't want more! If the energy and financial crises swamp us, at least we have an awful lot of things already. The trouble is they have little value for barter or sale. Antiques and collectibles are down 40 - 50%; with the internet making things available worldwide that would have taken decades to find previously, the values drop even more precipitously.

Books and studies have been written about how we got into this mess, notably Clive Hamilton's Affluenza -- which I highly recommend. You will be brought up short when you see how people are so easily manipulated by advertising/public relations. If anyone does it right, it's the Italians, who have a concept of bella figura -- cutting a dashing figure; an Old World concept to be sure. The French prescription for affordable style is: a great haircut, a sweater or jacket of very good material, black pants (go with anything) and good shoes. Not a lot of stuff, for every place, time and season; just a look that goes from student to dinner party. We couldn't carry that off, I don't think.

We may lose the war, but we won a battle recently, even though it took 20 years: Nancy and I worked together to clean out, clean and organize the bedroom closet. Hundreds of hangers were extracted; shoes from the 70s went. Needless to say, I found stuff that I'd been missing forever. How Cliff did a whole house cleanout by himself, I don't know. I do know we needed a drink after.

1 comment:

  1. I will show you how, if you can set your mind to it.