The Odyssey of Junk

Has your junk been more places than you?

It doesn’t matter how long I’ve been in the estate business, I still wonder why we hold on to so much “junk” and why we have such difficulty letting go of it.  Oh sure, we may have it in neat piles, boxed in a spare room, crammed in closets, or out of sight, but make no bones about it — it is THERE, lurking in the darkness of our drawers, attics, and closets faithfully reproducing while we go about our busy lives.  How on earth do we amass so much?

I have a theory.  Somewhere back in our long-ago DNA when ancestors were primitive, I think we developed a “switch” in our brains that told us to gather and collect.  Humans were, after all, hunters and gatherers, and I believe we still are on some level.  Back then, we had to collect wood for fire, food to eat, etc. Our survival depended on it.  If you didn’t collect these items, you and your family would perish.

Today, we do it on a grand, 21st century scale.  We buy, buy, buy, and don’t really understand why.  We have far more than we need and far more than we will ever use.  Did you know we actually use only 20% of what we own?  Think about it — we wear the same, favorite clothes, shoes, use the same kitchen items, toiletries, etc.  So what happens to the other 80%?  It sits there, not being put to use, often until a loved one dies and then it has to be dealt with.  By then, it is too late and much of it is usually discarded.

We not only hold on to, but also keep moving stuff from one home to another: our college stuff, our kids’ stuff, even stuff for grandkids who aren’t walking yet, but we think they may want these items one day.

When we are in estates cleaning them out, or if clients ask us to clean out their attics, we find boxes with original moving company stickers from the 60s and 70s, and those boxes are STILL taped shut.  No one ever opened them after the move 40+ years ago.  The message that sends to me is these items weren’t important enough for me to open this box, so why do we still have them?

Our elders, God bless them, saved everything including broken appliances and parts (because you might need them one day), tons of catalogs and magazines (because those old National Geographics might be worth something).  The entire kitchen is cluttered with mayonnaise jars, Cool Whip containers, pie tins, etc.  The truth is, they are never used, because we find decades of dust on them.

Sometimes families move the entire household of a deceased relative to another state, only to clutter up their own homes.  This cycle is long, tiresome, and laborious, and the pattern needs to be stopped, or at least interrupted, so we can analyze why we do these things.  No wonder we’re all so tired, buying stuff, finding places for it, and then at some point, being forced to deal with it.  It will eventually become the proverbial monkey on our backs or our children’s backs.

Logic would dictate that we need to be free of it, in order to make our lives simple again.  It’s APRIL and the perfect time for SPRING CLEANING.  I’ll deal with my piles if you deal with yours!

© 2012 Julie Hall

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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Julie, Great post! I so love your blog! Everyday I too see homes just chock full of “stuff” – sometimes to the point of a safety hazard.

  2. Well said! The compulsive need so many Americans have for acquiring without ever editing anything out is a recipe for disaster. Ultimately, people become crowded out of their living spaces by their sheer volume of stuff. It’s so sad and so easily preventable, but it does take a decision and a determination to change. Keep up the great writing!

  3. OK. I accept your challenge, Julie. April will be the month I deal with my piles of “stuff”. Thanks for the little push.


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