Tuesday, March 10, 2015

"It is a fool's life"


    One of the dozen mundane tasks that made Monday a sort of teeth-gritted, "Thirty-plus-years-of-doing-this-shit-and-here-I-am" kind of day, was tossing out all the brochures, catalogues, business cards—except for the one for the really cool story I'm going to follow up on—from my visit to the Housewares Show Saturday. Been there, done that. 
     Tossing out the samples was a little harder. Even though my wife had spurned the Click & Carry, it was a solid piece of well-poured plastic, a rich aqua, with a rubberized section to be kinder to your fingers. Somebody's dream made tangible. The Puritan father in me thought, "This could come in handy..."
     How? Should I tuck it into the back of the van, to rattle around with the flares we've never used and the mass of cloth bags because we're all so flippin' environmental? 
     It hit the copy of Home Furnishing News with a "whap."
     That felt right.  They should teach classes in throwing stuff out. We should practice, because eventually we're going to have to get good at it. My wife had a master class, in shutting down her parents home after her mother died. We both did, regarding all the material that two marketly unmaterialistic people had acquired. Nine roasters. Or was it 11? Or 13? Anyway, a lot of black enamel roasters with white specks. More than a human should have. 
     As if the hoarder TV shows aren't warning enough. Pitch stuff. I'm going to take time off work to spring clean this year, because I don't think I've done it right for about five years. 
     Henry Thoreau had it right. You don't own stuff, stuff owns you. 
     Standing up with a groan, and over to the bookshelf. Books are different. You need those.
     "The better part of the man is soon ploughed into the soil for compost," Thoreau writes, in Walden. "By a seeming fate, commonly called necessity, they are employed, as it says in an old book, laying up treasures which moth and rust will corrupt and thieves break through and steal. It is a fool's life, as they will find when they get to the end of it, if not before."
     To which I will add two observations. One, Thoreau's father owned a pencil factory. Thoreau's disdain for possessions was built on possessions, and connected pals like Emerson, who loaned him the axe he needed to build his cabin at Walden Pond which, Two,  was not an organic expression of his desire to live simply, but a book stunt, just like the book stunts today where people read the phone book and date 100 strangers and such.  It was designed to build the Thoreau brand, and it pretty much failed—he had to fall back on those pencils, thought at the time to be the best in America. 
     Not to slag Thoreau. The man could turn a phrase, and it takes the mind of a charlatan welded to the heart of a saint to get through life sometimes. And it helps to throw stuff out when you can. You never miss it.

26 comments:

  1. I had to deal with my cousin home when she died. Who knew someone appearing neat and organized could live in such chaos. And I'm not even talking about any sort of true hoarder. I'm just talking about someone whose life seemed so much less than joyful because of the way they were living. It turned me from a person who was sort of good at getting rid of things to a person who was really good at it. It really is a pies due to have that one roaster you need and no more. You're more likely to find it too when you don't have a mass of junk hiding it. As fir books I got rid of all except those I truly love. It's made my bookshelves something special and not a repository that means nothing.

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  2. I've found that we keep a lot of 'stuff' as a reminder of the things we did, goals accomplished and battles won. Now, as I get older and look back at them, I can't seem to recall what most of them were for.

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  3. Exactly and too many people becoming hoarders these days. Dump it!

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  4. Off topic but I was watching a PBS special with Gwen Iffel sp? on Selma. Now 50 years ago or more, the afr. amer there were beaten, in bad schools, lynched, not allowed to vote, not allowed in colleges, no finan. aide or loans and that was terrible. Yet, now some of the area was just as bad, many just hanging out on porches in daytime, including healthy males. So what's the excuse these days? Many chose to drop out of school, etc.

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    1. I'd love to hear your wise thoughts on this, Mr. S.

      Some were saying they couldn't afford the local country club but neither could many whites, so not about racism.

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  5. With respect to throwing things out, most of us have let our minds become cluttered with trashy notions, unfounded convictions and ignorant opinions. Let's not dump all of this on poor Neil every morning.

    john

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    1. what are you? his bodyguard?

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    2. Why do you ask? Do you think I was talking about you? Perhaps so, but I've got some trashy notions myself that Neil probably doesn't want to hear. I won't dump if you don't.

      John

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  6. Hmmm....well, I do like collecting certain things, Star Wars-related items, largely and newspapers from relatively momentous events. I keep them in boxes in the attic that I selectively rummage through every 5 years or so and really enjoy the memories the objects evoke. But as I've gotten older, I also find myself ferreting out only the best items and tossing (usually giving away) the others. Oh well....

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  7. Oh you can slag Thoreau to your heart's content as far as I'm concerned. He was an annoying weenie.

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    1. The writer who came up with the idea of Civil Disob. is not a weenie.

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  8. I've been cleaning out my closets and donating clothes I haven't worn for years, but the basement stuff is a nightmare. Would take at least a month to clean/sort out/dispose, but you've given me the incentive to start.

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    1. people let it pile up too far

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  9. Downsizing looms and I won't miss the clothes I'll never wear and the tools I'll never use, as I know Goodwill and the Salvation Army will appreciate having them. Books are another matter. Disposing of them will be an exercise in character.

    In the matter of mental clutter, Sherlock Holmes was of a mind with Thoreau, deliberately discarding knowledge that he felt unnecessary to the science of deduction, including much of literature, philosophy, astronomy, politics and botany (except as it might involve poisonous plants.) He believed, wrongly it seems, that the mind was inelastic, only capable of holding so much and that factual detritus would become an impediment to the clear thinking essential to his profession as a private consulting detective. It is, of course, true that time wasted absorbing the unimportant and trivial could be put to better use. I ceased paying much attention to popular music created after that epochal event in 1963, finding the lyrics witless and the performances more indebted to electronic amplification than musical virtuosity.

    Tom Evans

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    1. we are so impressed when you use big words

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    2. I thought what I wrote was harmless, but you seem to be annoyed by it. If I knew you and liked you I would be concerned, but I don't, probably wouldn't and so am not.

      TE

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    3. Tell us the words you don't understand and we'll try to explain them to you.

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    4. Is Tom Evans the one who said you were an attorney? or is that tate, anyway how would an attorney have time to write on blogs so much?

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  10. Just a note - please don't throw out your old home-recorded videotapes of things you taped off of TV. Donate them to The Museum of Classic Chicago Television (www.FuzzyMemories.TV).

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  11. Oh, the things I've kept on to for all these years.

    I recently read a few articles about Marie Kondo, the Japanese organizational guru. By the way -that would be a great blame for a Miami real estate broker. Although I think she's way too OCD, she does have some every good concepts - throw out any object that does not bring you joy, for instance.

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    1. well a vacuum cleaner might not bring joy, but you still need it

      so much for those silly gurus

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    2. Clean carpets bring me joy.

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  12. OOPS - I meant great NAME, not great BLAME. Subliminal...

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  13. if one can afford tattoos , drugs, liquor and lotto tickets and junk food from the local convience store, then welfare not needed

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  14. We were kid of lucky after my mother passed away. We hired some one to clear the garage of all the stuff. My brother and I took some stuff we wanted plus art work. We had a pretty big load but it could have been worse. We were going to hold an estate sale but luckily the woman who bought my mother's condo said she would take every thing we didn't want. I don't know what we would have gotten out of an estate sale, It was worth it to let her keep every thing instead of having to deal with it.

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  15. sounds like a lot of hoarders on here

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