George Carlin


Some people insist that the worst part of moving is the unpacking. I don’t mind unpacking at all. It is usually a quicker process because you don’t have to unpack everything all at once (or ever, as I found out when I was sorting through the totes in my basement of items yet unpacked from our last move nearly four years ago), and if you have any sense at all you are actually dealing with fewer things than you previously owned.

The worst part of moving, for me, is the sorting and pruning and unloading of stuff on friends, relatives, donation centers and total strangers as they pass by your home. Okay, the last part I made up. I haven’t, yet, tried to force any of my stuff onto innocent pedestrians. It is tempting though.

There is this old George Carlin routine about people’s stuff. How it proliferates and at what point does it go from being “stuff” to simply being “crap”. I know I pondered that question many a time last week when I was emptying previously unopened containers from the old house and our last move.

Will was very ill by this point and, to their credit, a dozen or so friends descended on our home on moving day to help me pack and move. As considerate as they were, I am still puzzled by the method behind the madness that day as I open boxes and totes to find the oddest things packed together.

There was one tote that contained nothing but two pair of work boots, a box of roofing nails, a Dr. Scholl’s insert – just one, an unused paint brush and a tape measure.

And there was more stuff of Will’s that I really want to label crap. The Carlin routine asks the question, “Have you ever noticed that their stuff is shit, and your shit is stuff?”

I never said a word about Will’s collections when he was alive. There is nothing inherently wrong with collecting things. I even continued collecting the quarters with the states on the back after he was too far gone to remember why he had started (to give to our child someday) or to even know what a quarter, or a state, was for that matter.

But, as I stood there confronted with the Budweiser Christmas mugs and an unopened box of wine glasses, I was just so angry with him. Not as much for dying as for dying and leaving all this shit for me to sort and give away. The sifting and repackaging can seem so overwhelming from time to time anyway without the memories and the responsibility of deciding what is important to keep for our daughter and what is not.

All this paring down has driven home to me the need to keep “stuff” to essentials and things that add joy or aid personal growth. There is no need to live in a big house and stuff every room with furniture and decor. A half empty closet is a good thing. Books, music and movies that fill the mind and soul are the best way to add that lived in homey look to a room. Gadgets should be useful and used often to merit the space they occupy. Furniture comfy. And things you no longer use or wear should be collected every so often and given to organizations that will see to it they end up with people who need them.

It’s funny, really, because I used to want that suburban lifestyle. Now I find that I am happier giving my things away than garage sale-ing them, and the more open space and empty drawers there are the better. Perhaps it is symbolic of new beginnings. The space and drawers are empty in anticipation of new memories.