December 2, 2016

Too Much Stuff

Is it time for a garage sale?

My wife Barb and I have asked each other that question for the last 10 years and though we’ve agreed we need to get rid of a lot of stuff, we haven’t pulled the trigger. So, stuff keeps piling up. (No, we’re not hoarders—yet.)

We’ve got to clean out the basement.

And the garage.

And the attic above the garage.

And the garden shed.

And the closets.

I took a quick inventory of stuff that we should get rid of but may disagree about.

Cedar-lined hope chests, large and small, inherited from parents and family friends. An 18-speed Fuji bicycle bought in 1978—heavy by today’s standards but still a nice bike (I should take it for a spin).

Piles of wood in several places: 2x4s, 4x4s, plywood, treated planks, oak trim with nail holes (I wonder if I should put it back up?), lattice for the deck.

Metal tubing used on a kids’ play gym that I tore down long ago, a door for a 1991 Mazda RX-7, old windows, and one of those tiny spare tires.

Stationary and portable table saws (I don’t know which one to keep), a double-bed headboard and frame, several wooden screen doors meant to be a simple means of creating a screened-in porch (seemed like a good idea at the time).

A chain saw with a bent bar, a gas-powered, broken leaf shredder and wood chipper, several speaker sets for various music systems, a couple of large plate mirrors (I don’t dare break them up), several somewhat broken bird feeders, an old sump pump that probably still works.

Various insulation panels, aluminum siding panels and vinyl trim, shingles left over from roofing projects, extra rain gutters.

A set of old golf clubs, badminton and croquet sets, He-Man© toys (apparently we’re supposed to keep these), playthings for a pool we no longer have, cross-country skis (the long, narrow kind) with boots.

A set of painted end tables designed for the ‘70s.

And then, there are clothes, mostly mine from my work life: suits and ties I’ll never wear again. Life sure is easier when you only wear jeans, or shorts and polo and t-shirts.

Stuff has been piling up in those spaces for 35 years. It’s been passed on by parents and aunts who wanted us to have it. Left by kids who moved on. Accumulated by us, kept because we might need it someday-or haven’t used it enough to justify getting rid of it, if that makes any sense.

If we had moved a few times in the past 35 years, we probably would have ditched some things with each move, but didn’t and haven’t, so it keeps piling up. I worry that our sons will have to deal with all this stuff if we don’t do something about it.

A friend is wondering what to do with all of his mother’s china, passed down through generations, which no one in the family wants.

Every time my parents moved, from Ironwood to Mason to Minneapolis and to assisted living, they got rid of stuff. So, now there’s not much left for their kids to worry about.

Believe me, none of this stuff is going to make it to Antiques Roadshow. Maybe people from the American Pickers TV show will come and buy it all, but I’m not holding my breath.

Usually, when we want to get rid of something that really has no value, we put it next to the road and tape a “FREE” sign on it. Sometimes, we don’t even bother with the sign. People take it anyway. I don’t know if that’s considered theft. We’ve gotten rid of broken lawnmowers and snowblowers, a 30-year-old TV, old windows and doors, lawn and inside furniture, a broken shop vacuum.

We play a game to guess how long it will take for someone to haul it away. I don’t think any of those free things has lasted longer than a couple of hours out front. The record is 20 minutes. I’m glad someone can use this stuff.

If we lived a little further south, we could join Michigan’s Longest Garage Sale, which stretches along the entire route of U.S.-12 from Detroit to Coldwater to New Buffalo, from Lake Erie to Lake Michigan. This year it runs from Aug. 10-12. (Get a map at us12heritagetrail.org.) Hundreds of homes, farms and businesses along the mostly country road will be selling everything from antiques, collectibles, furniture and dishware to fresh garden produce and homemade jams and jellies. There will be live entertainment along the way. Maybe even more interesting than the “junk” are the people you’ll meet along the drive.

The U.S.-12 Heritage Trail has been used since prehistoric times. Near Saline and parallel to the highway, paleontologists from the University of Michigan have excavated portions of the longest mastodon trailway ever found, suggesting that game animals were using the corridor over 10,000 years ago. The indigenous people of Michigan who hunted the animals followed.

In 1825, the U.S. government appropriated $3,000 for a federal highway, the second in the nation, which was laid out along an ancient Indian trail. Maintained by federal, state and local governments, the highway has been used ever since. Some of the stuff in the garage sale may be as old as the highway.

But we don’t live there, so we will resort to other means. Some things will go to Goodwill, some we’ll put on Craigslist, the rest will wait for a garage sale. Whenever.