Stuff

Actually this is just a place for my stuff, ya know? That’s all, a little place for my stuff. That’s all I want, that’s all you need in life, is a little place for your stuff, ya know? I can see it on your table, everybody’s got a little place for their stuff. This is my stuff, that’s your stuff, that’ll be his stuff over there. That’s all you need in life, a little place for your stuff. That’s all your house is: a place to keep your stuff. If you didn’t have so much stuff, you wouldn’t need a house. You could just walk around all the time.

A house is just a pile of stuff with a cover on it. You can see that when you’re taking off in an airplane. You look down, you see everybody’s got a little pile of stuff. All the little piles of stuff. And when you leave your house, you gotta lock it up. Wouldn’t want somebody to come by and take some of your stuff. They always take the good stuff. They never bother with that crap you’re saving. All they want is the shiny stuff. That’s what your house is, a place to keep your stuff while you go out and get…more stuff!

Sometimes you gotta move, gotta get a bigger house. Why? No room for your stuff anymore. Did you ever notice when you go to somebody else’s house, you never quite feel a hundred percent at home? You know why? No room for your stuff. Somebody else’s stuff is all over the place! And if you stay overnight, unexpectedly, they give you a little bedroom to sleep in. Bedroom they haven’t used in about eleven years. Someone died in it, eleven years ago. And they haven’t moved any of his stuff! Right next to the bed there’s usually a dresser or a bureau of some kind, and there’s NO ROOM for your stuff on it. Somebody else’s shit is on the dresser.

Have you noticed that their stuff is shit and your shit is stuff? God! And you say, “Get that shit offa there and let me put my stuff down!

Sometimes you leave your house to go on vacation. And you gotta take some of your stuff with you. Gotta take about two big suitcases full of stuff, when you go on vacation. You gotta take a smaller version of your house. It’s the second version of your stuff. And you’re gonna fly all the way to Honolulu. Gonna go across the continent, across half an ocean to Honolulu. You get down to the hotel room in Honolulu and you open up your suitcase and you put away all your stuff. “Here’s a place here, put a little bit of stuff there, put some stuff here, put some stuff–you put your stuff there, I’ll put some stuff–here’s another place for stuff, look at this, I’ll put some stuff here…” And even though you’re far away from home, you start to get used to it, you start to feel okay, because after all, you do have some of your stuff with you. That’s when your friend calls up from Maui, and says, “Hey, why don’tchya come over to Maui for the weekend and spend a couple of nights over here.”

Oh, no! Now what do I pack? Right, you’ve gotta pack an even SMALLER version of your stuff. The third version of your house. Just enough stuff to take to Maui for a coupla days. You get over to Maui–I mean you’re really getting extended now, when you think about it. You got stuff ALL the way back on the mainland, you got stuff on another island, you got stuff on this island. I mean, supply lines are getting longer and harder to maintain. You get over to your friend’s house on Maui and he gives you a little place to sleep, a little bed right next to his windowsill or something. You put some of your stuff up there. You put your stuff up there. You got your Visine, you got your nail clippers, and you put everything up. It takes about an hour and a half, but after a while you finally feel okay, say, “All right, I got my nail clippers, I must be okay.” That’s when your friend says, “Aaaaay, I think tonight we’ll go over the other side of the island, visit a pal of mine and maybe stay over.”

Aww, no. NOW what do you pack? Right–you gotta pack an even SMALLER version of your stuff. The fourth version of your house. Only the stuff you know you’re gonna need. Money, keys, comb, wallet, lighter, hanky, pen, smokes, rubber and change. Well, only the stuff you HOPE you’re gonna need.” — George Carlin.

Recently I helped clean out a house. The owner had died and her children had to get rid of all of her stuff in order to sell the house. They wanted to get the house on the market this year so we were under a tight timeline to clear out the stuff.

For the first few days Mary and I inventoried much of the stuff. The criteria was whether or not someone in the family would want part of the stuff. Another was to make sure we inventoried gifts that various family members had given to the deceased so that each would get their particular gifts back. There were some very nice things among the stuff: Waterford crystal, china sets that had been in the family for several generations, sets of “every day” plates, silver ware, everyday tableware, an entire collection of English village Christmas houses, pictures of children and grandchildren and great grandchildren, kitchen appliances, furniture, and so much more stuff.

After inventoried what we thought was much of the stuff, the person’s children met and divided up what each wanted. The first criteria was “did you gift the item or set?” It’s yours. That took care of most of the crystal and fine china. Then there were the “legacy” items — things that each connected with memories of the deceased. Finally there were items that one or the other might find useful — kitchen appliances, lamps, televisions, tools and so much more stuff. We established a table for items that people might want. All of the rest wold go to charity.

I packed boxes and boxes of books. Since I am reticent to collect any books, I took very few even though there were art books, history books, and literary works that were tempting. We did keep a few books that were by family members, including the person who had passed away. The rest went to a charity. I realized how used book stores get so many od items that don’t seem relevant anymore. For example, I packed a set of encyclopedias and the accompanying “year books” from 1976 to 2018. Two of the daughters collected clothes, shoes, purses in large bags that went to a charity.

There was a lot of furniture. We took several arm chairs, a sofa and several chests of drawers with us. Some family members took a few items. But a very nice china hutch, book cases, bed side tables, media centers, and sofas went to charities. A lot was given away. Better than dumping it.

Why not an estate sale? Not enough time. The family wants to get the house on the market before we go into the holiday season when there are fewer opportunities to sell.

I am being judgmental in this blog. I like to think that I am not materialistic and enamored by stuff. I like to think that I could give “it” all away and become monastic. I know that I could and would “divest” myself of a lot of the stuff in my life if given a chance. I do some of that. But I am not put to the test very much on this. “Divesting” for me means throwing away rather than giving away. I need to get in the mode of realizing that what is stuff to me is of value to others who do not have my wealth. Right now, I need to continue what I can to not get burdened and trapped by my stuff.

About Jerry

Catechumenate ministry is my passion. I have been involved in the catechumenate since 1980 in both the Roman Catholic and Episcopal branches of the Church. I am a "progressive," ecumenical Christian who is realistic enough to know that the Church has never been "One"; is often not "Holy"; strives to be "Catholic" and is "Apostolic" only when members respect the Tradition rather than the latest customs. I have been fortunate to be able to focus on various elements of philosophy, theology and Christian history during my studies. I am able to bring them all to bear in catechumenate ministry.
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