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Husband, father, grandfather, friend...a few of the roles acquired in 62 years of living.  I keep an upbeat attitude, loving humor and the singular freedom of a perfect laugh.  I don't let curmudgeons ruin my day; that only gives them power over me.  Having experienced death once, I no longer fear it, although I am still frightened by the process of dying.  I love to write because it allows me the freedom to vent those complex feelings that bounce restlessly off the walls of my mind; and express the beauty that can only be found within the human heart.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Stuffin' Nonsense in the Closet*

*Somerset, PA Daily American
July 24, 2010
as "Stuff and Closets"

Copyright © 2010 by Ralph Couey

When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one family to dissolve the emotional bands with things which have connected them with another time and place and to assume among the powers of the earth, that it’s time to clean up the mess, with decent respect to the opinions of mankind who, accidentally or otherwise, should behold the mess.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all closets require cleaning and that even though men are created equal, women are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are absolute judgment over driving habits, no limits on shoes, and a majority of closet space.

Over the years, we acquire “stuff.” Most of the “stuff” we use often. Some were used only once, but stay around because…well…you never know when you’ll need them again. We usually store stuff in places where we’ll never find them, attics and closets, and sometimes the entire garage.

Our closet has two tiers. On my side, the upper tier holds my pants, suits, and sport coats. On the lower tier are my shirts, sweaters, and sweatshirts. (Yes I hang them up. Don’t ask why. Please.) On Cheryl’s two-thirds she also has things divided into two tiers. The system by which she makes that division is an utter mystery to me. After I hang up the clean laundry, she comes in and moves them, grumbling that I put everything in the wrong place.

There are two things in the universe I don’t understand: Quantum physics and my wife’s closet space.

Anyway, two weeks ago, I was standing in the closet when with a soft groan, the support brackets holding the steel rod gave out a groan. Then with a sort of a “pflumph” the whole thing collapsed.

I stood there for several moments, my brain trying to process what had just happened. With no solution presenting itself, I just let the whole thing fall to the floor. Or as close to the floor as the collection of shoe and boot boxes would allow. Thus unencumbered, I moved the clothes to the guest room bed, and left for work.

Faced with the fact that the closet had to be repaired, I did the time-honored thing of all Couey men: I called someone in.

Our handyman, Alan, is a bright guy with gifted hands and the ability to repair almost anything house-related, a talent I so deeply admire. Having scheduled the day for him to come over, we decided to use this opportunity to clean out the closet.

We cleared the shelves, moving those items to the bed for sorting and disposition. In just a few minutes work, we had covered the queen-sized surface several layers deep. We stood there, awed that this small closet could hold so much. In that mountain of detritus was an old motorcycle glove, one of my football jerseys, a small cardboard box containing all my Boy Scout stuff, including my Eagle medal. Pens, notepads, a road atlas from 1998, several coffee mugs, key chains, a couple of keys that apparently don’t fit anything that we can identify, and a lot of stuff that defied categorization.

Now came the hard part. Every house contains caches of stuff that are there simply because there isn’t any other place to put it. Now we had eliminated one such cache, but now we had to decide where to stuff that stuff. Since space is limited, we had to dispose of some of our stuff. This took some time.

Every journey through “stuff” is a trip down memory lane. It takes much longer to clean if you’re stopping constantly to say, “Remember this?” We ended up filling two trash bags, but the shelves were clear when Alan came a couple days later.

Working with consummate skill and speed, he put the clothes rod…er, pipe…back up, securing it firmly to the wall, assuring us that the house would likely collapse before the closet would. The clothes went back up, and with the massive pile of stuff relegated to the curb for trash day, the shelves were clear and clean.

For now, anyway.

Still, there is a curious sense of accomplishment when going through an event like this. Having de-cached one location, you’re motivated to go to work on the others as well. But just certain as a black hole has no bottom, I know we’re never going to run out of stuff.

It is, after all, the “stuff” of life.
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