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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.

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Monday, August 01, 2011

Stuff...and Change**


Copyright © 2011 by Ralph Couey

*Chicago Tribune
August 5, 2011

*Somerset, PA  Daily American
August 6, 2011

We all know about the tendency to acquire “stuff,” most of which usually seems to end up in the attic, basement, or out in the garage.  These are items that we generally don’t think about for years, perhaps decades, but are too sentimental to let go of nonetheless.  If a family stays in one place, then stuff is not normally a problem; out of sight, out of mind, if you will.
But there are times in a family’s life when homeowners have to confront the monster of their past.  Most times, it’s that moment in late autumn when the first big snowfall is forecast and suddenly you realize that the car no longer fits in the garage.  But the big event, the one we all fear, is that moment when you know you have to move.
Nobody likes to move.  We get comfortable and settled, and resistant to even the idea of packing everything up.  This happens more often when we’re young, moving out of the parent’s house, going to college, getting our own apartment, and then moving several times for various reasons.  But life changes fundamentally when you can no longer pack your entire universe in the back of a Dodge Neon.
Moving prices have gone up dramatically in recent years, mainly because of the rise in the price of diesel fuel.  When we came here from Missouri seven years ago, the move was done in three stages.  First, I came out with my corner of our universe, then a few months later, hauled another car load here, and finally when we sold the house and brought everything else.  That last move wasn’t as bad as it could have been.  In addition to the stuff I’d already brought, we rented a 3-cubic-yard dumpster and proceeded to go through the house throwing away everything we possibly could.  We filled that bad boy up three times (assisted by an as-yet unidentified neighbor who “contributed” an ancient chest freezer), but still managed to pack a full moving van. 
In recent weeks, certain events not under our control in a town about three hours distant have made it apparent that we may once again be relocating.  In response to that, we decided we’d better start the process known as “going through things” just to be prepared.  Not that this is a new thing for us; we’ve moved 12 times in 32 years.  But moving is like a root canal.  No matter how many times it happens, you never get used to it.
We have a lot of DVDs, but still possess a large collection of VHS tapes.  They’ll have to go.  My wife’s collection of boxes full of material and craft projects that we hauled from California to Missouri to here will have to be looked at.  I, of course, get to keep my tools.  A man is not a man without a chest full of tools he rarely uses.
I have always had a passionate love affair with books.  My recent shift to e-books stopped the inflow of hard- and paper-back books, but that still leaves me with my current collection. 
When we moved from California to Missouri, I packed along 26 boxes of books.  When we came here, that number had gone down to 17 boxes.  I’m proud to say that after this past weekend, I cut my current inventory from 6 boxes to only 3.  This, of course, doesn’t include the ones out on the living room shelves…and my nightstand…and my fourth dresser drawer…on my closet shelf…and sitting on my desk at work…well, you get the idea.  That this problem seems to genetic doesn’t help. When my father died in 2004, my sister and I packed up 52 boxes of books from his house, some of which ended up on my shelves.
I’ve been successful in reducing my oversupply simply by giving them away, mostly doing anonymous donations to local libraries via the night deposit box. (Yeah. That was me.) 
As D-Day approaches, I know we’ll have to have a “come to Jesus moment” with our stuff.  We will have a garage sale at some point, and watch with anxiety as our heart-felt junk becomes somebody else’s treasure.  As hard as it is, this exorcism is a useful exercise for any homeowner, even if you’re not moving.  But it seems to take that irrevocable deadline to force us into action.
After all, you have to clear away the past in order to make room for the future.
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