May 27, 2020–As are many of you, we are using this time to clean house.

We call it The Great Purge.

So, so much stuff.

Another load of “authenticity” getting readied to head to the landfill. Photo by Phil Houseal

When we moved to our little property, one of the perks was a 600-square-foot barn. Forget your hot tubs, decks, and “oak-covered views.” This place had a barn.

Well, not really a big old barn like we grew up with back on the farm. This was a leaning tin structure, drafty and dusty and full of holes that let in the rain which helped cool us off as it was a giant tin box.

Inexorably, like all free space, we began filling it with stuff. A broken chair here, a discarded refrigerator there, paint cans everywhere. When my brother came to visit, he recognized the gateway signs to hoarding. You’ve put little piles of stuff in different corners of the building, he noted. Like marking your territory.

Soon my father-in-law began bringing in boxes of stuff he picked up at the end of garage sales, as his garage and the shed he had built for the overflow were full, too.

He has been gone these 10 years, but we still have boxes of his stuff.

So not wanting to leave the mess to my children, I recruited them to help cleaning up. Here’s some of what we found:

Boxes full of empty coffee cans and lidless glass jars.

About 8 aquariums, from 1 to 20 gallons. Guilty. As a former science teacher, I never could pass up an aquarium. Even a cracked one. You never know when you’ll find a tarantula or box turtle.

Two boxes of plastic tape reels, with two reel-to-reel tape decks that no longer record.

A dozen tubs with school memorabilia, including used textbooks. I’ll probably never need to consult Inspirational Choreography.

Music equipment. Three complete drum sets, with six snare drums. Synthesizers from the 1980s that cost $2400 then but do less than a $49 Casio today.

A treadle sewing machine I bought at a garage sale 40 years ago and inexplicably hauled across the country. Into the trash.

Valued antique or nonfunctioning junk? Spring cleaning decisions.

Flooring, tile, and paint left over from remodels.

Tin. So much tin. New tin, rusted tin, holey tin. People will pay big money for that, people tell me. But not them.

Buckets of bolts.

Bins of paper. Copies every ad campaign I was involved in from 1985.

Four-drawer files of records. No, I don’t need every tax receipt from 1974. But I have them. Seven years of records are enough, they tell me. So into the fire they go. Along with the four-drawer files.

Computers, keyboards, and software that are all incompatible. Like bad relationships, but we can’t let them go.

We’ve hauled trailer loads of trash and burned mountains of paper, but it doesn’t diminish the pile.

We haven’t even gotten into the clothes. Will I ever wear that letter jacket again? How many umbrellas does one family need, especially living in Texas? Two dozen ballet slippers?

Koozies. I loathe Koozies. I don’t use them, but people and businesses always give them to you. I don’t drink that much beer, and I don’t mind if it is room temperature when I do. Burn ‘em.

Old medicines. Why do I have horse wormer when we haven’t owned a horse in 10 years?

We’re not hoarders. We just haven’t thrown a lot of stuff away yet.

I’ve read that people who like “vintage” covet these dented chicken feeders, bullet-riddled signs, and rusted Radio Flyers for adding “authenticity” to their décor.

Well, if you are seeking authenticity, I have piles of it.