I was flicking around the cable TV universe the other day and landed, for a minute or two, on one of those channels that tell stories about people buying, building or remodeling houses. I retired from that business a few years ago, but I still hold an interest in such things, albeit from the outside looking in. It’s more fun that way and a lot less stressful.
The show I landed on was called Tiny Houses or something along those lines. The gist of it was that a guy was trying to find a new or his first tiny house, and by tiny, I mean the size of a one-car garage or maybe one of those kiosks at the mall that employs people who thread eyebrows. This Tiny House guy was actually complaining to the Realtor that one hundred and fifty square feet were way too many square feet, so the next house she showed him was a school bus that apparently ran out of gas on the side of the road in 1970 and was now listed for around forty thousand dollars. The school bus was a little over three hundred square feet, which was way too big for our home shopper who was looking for a home previously owned by a Hobbit. I didn’t see how the show ended, but I’m guessing he wound up living in a roadside produce stand in front of a farmer’s house, next to the wicker baskets and tomatoes.
As my wife and I grow older and we find that maintaining a house and property is becoming less desirous, we talk more about downsizing. Downsizing is something that many people of a certain age consider when they realize that they are storing more stuff than they need or doing way more yard work than the landscaping crew at Versailles. I think the happy medium is somewhere between a tiny house and what Mrs. G. and I have now, and while we’re not looking to make a move tomorrow; it’s definitely on our radar.
But first, we have to organize, and by organize, I mean getting rid of items that we don’t need. My wife’s mantra is that if it’s not needed or if it doesn’t make her happy, it’s out of here. Given those parameters, I’ve been on my best behavior.
Mrs. G. no longer worries about what the garbage men think about the quantity of our trash. A year or so ago, when we started on this journey, she was leery of filling our rolling trash toter to the rim and leaving a single bag on the side. Now, on Monday morning, the end of our driveway resembles the cleanup efforts after a hurricane.
Here’s the thing: As much as we don’t need and therefore don’t want a lot of our stuff, nobody else wants it either. I sensed that nobody wanted this stuff when people stopped responding to my texted pleas to come get it. Finding someone to take our stuff is roughly the same as trying to give away zeppelin-sized garden zucchini. People run in the other direction.
That’s not to say we don’t have good stuff because we do, but we’re not giving that away. Only the old stuff that is too good for a dumpster, but is taking up space in our basement or garage. What we’re shooting for now is minimalism. When I go into our basement, I want the echoes to sound as if I’m at the bottom of the Grand Canyon and as far as the yard, I want to fire up the lawn tractor, close my eyes and cut nothing but grass. I’m done with dodging one planting bed after the other and keeping the mulch farmers in new BMWs.
As I said, the new goal is minimalism.
When the big windstorm of 2017 took out the trees in our backyard, we finally had room for a shed. We need a shed because our two and a half car garage will only fit one car, so we need an extra building to hold stuff that is overflowing from another building. This is when the light went off about sheds. Do I really want to be that guy who lives down the street from me who has a shed and has had a Get-A-Cow storage container in his driveway for three years? When did we become the National Archives? Why am I still storing that leather Planet Hollywood jacket I got in New York City twenty-two years ago when I haven’t worn it in twenty-one years, and what’s with all the garden pots and suitcases in the garage?
We’re getting started, though. We recently replaced the home office furniture we had for something with more storage for files. It also has a larger, flat desktop where my wife can spread out her adding machine and ledger sheets to balance checkbooks and other tasks, instead of dragging everything to the kitchen table.
Our previous filing system of using the dining room chairs, crates in the closet and wine boxes in the basement was getting tiresome, so now we have three regular file drawers and two big, long drawers, all wrapped up in an ivory-colored, louvered set that looks as if we swiped it from a beach house in Nantucket.
Each piece was shipped to the store from Thailand but packed as if they were shipped from the International Space Station via the exit door and brought to Earth by gravity.
Once the boxed pieces were trailered here, it took an hour to unpack everything. I have never seen more sheets of packing foam and cardboard in my life, but each piece was perfect—not a scratch.
On Sunday night, it took twenty-five minutes to get everything to the curb for the trash pickup Monday morning. My wife had dutifully broken down the cardboard boxes and folded them into larger cardboard boxes so that they could be recycled into more cardboard boxes. It all went straight in the back of the regular garbage truck anyway since the recycling driver will not pick up anything if it’s not in the designated recycling container. Hey, we tried.
Once the furniture was in place, I sorted through the stuff that came out of the previous drawers, threw out no less than three dozen pens from various stores, doctor’s offices and trade shows, every pencil without an eraser, and every pair of dull scissors. This still left two large Ziploc bags full of pens and pencils, which should last us until they announce our birthdays on the Today show.
We also had four drafting rulers, two three-hole punch devices, CD jewel cases, dead batteries, keys to God knows what, postage stamps that weren’t cancelled but cut off envelopes, two large gum pencil erasers, no less than six sets of earbuds from Apple products, roughly thirty-thousand staples in strips and boxes, weird chargers, an Altoid, and other assorted drawer flotsam. I kept one of each item of use and everything else went in the trash.
I left the files to my wife since this was her purview, but I know that we still have the receipt for the mattress we bought in 1986. Mrs. G. not only saves everything, she also makes copies of everything and has an eidetic memory of where it all is. The trouble is; I don’t, and going forward, as we both go daffy with age, I want to be able to find things too, so these “just in case” files are going in the fire pit. If the IRS wants proof of what we deducted in 1997, I guess we’re out of luck.
So that’s our game plan for the immediate future. Divide and conquer. Thin the herd. Make life simpler and more efficient, and if our trash collectors are reading this, you’d better snug up your back braces. It’s going to get worse before it gets better.