I was standing there with three grown men arguing over who had the most useless junk in his garage.
“I can’t even walk through mine.”
“I can’t even open the door without junk falling out!”
“I have to hire someone to move out some of the junk so I can see what junk I have!”
I proudly proclaimed that I had junk I did NOT want to throw away, like my comic book collection, random boxes of souvenirs and the childhood toys my mom saved for me in her attic for 35 years.
One wiseguy challenged me on this. “You just can’t let go of your childhood.”
I thought for a few seconds, and immediately flashed back to an episode of Clean House, where I watched the designer try to get this guy to put some of his model airplanes into the yard sale. He was having a hard time letting go of ANY of them, not for the monetary value… but the value of what they represented. He built those model planes with his father who had since passed away. In his mind, throwing out the planes was equivalent to throwing out the memories of long Saturday afternoons with his dad. Sure they needed more space for the baby nursery, but come on… not the planes!!
Isn’t this why most collectors collect? It’s not for the potential resale price on ebay. It’s for the bond or emotional attachment they have to each “junk” object… for what it represents. I am not ashamed to admit that I have emotional bonds to junk (unlike some other guys who will remain nameless, Paul.)
I built a little toy museum in one corner of my home office. It includes a walking metal robot I got for Christmas at age 9, a plastic model of Snoopy in a Bugatti racecar, and an original GI Joe from 1970. One of my most treasured items is a small, round metal serving tray with the state of Florida and Disney World characters painted on it. It reminds me of my first family trip there at age 10, and the incredible creative inspiration I drew from that experience. My parents gave me 3 dollars and said I could buy one souvenir before we left. Not sure why I picked a serving tray, but that piece of junk is not going anywhere.
So I guess we need to define “junk.” Maybe that broken wheelbarrow or leftover carpet sample from your remodel could be called junk, but not your treasured memories. Paul (oops, sorry…nameless) may be right that I can’t let go of my childhood. But I say as long as I’ve got the square footage, why should I?
By the way, I know one grown man who has a stuffed monkey he kept from his childhood. Still trying to verify whether he sleeps with it.
I don’t think one should let go of the playful, creative,curious child within. Those who hold onto it make better marriage partners,better team players, and add a lot of color and excitement to their families and communities.
I came from a rather large family so there was no room to keep childhood things even when I was a child! (There, does that win the “who has more junk” contest!? Or we can start the “We were so poor…” contest.” As a result I have very few items from my childhood (which I consider was well into my thirties-but that’s another story.) I subsequently married a woman to whom the words “pack rat” is equivalent to the words “evil incarnate” so she is ruthless when it comes to throwing things out.
One day I drew the line when I saw my son’s favorite childhood pillow in the garbage can. Sure it was full of rips and tears and the stuffing was coming out. Yes it was full of stains from gumming and drool. But it was MY favorite pillow too- at least it represented his childhood to me. Without telling her (coward that I am) I picked it out of the garbage and placed it in a plastic bin which I have hid in the attic. Little by little that plastic bin has been filling up as Mrs. Unsentimental ruthlessly threw away drawings, class projects, arts and crafts items and toys belonging to my daughter and son- they each have their own bin. My son recently turned 18 and as part of the birthday celebration I handed over the bin to him. You never experienced such laughter and tears as he went through the items in that bin! (The laughter was his and the tears were mine as my wife pounded my arm for defying her sense of order in the universe.)
I like the saying, “Live long enough to be a burden to your children.” Let them deal with the detritus from your life well lived. Each item you leave behind is a touchstone to them whispering your existence in their lives.
This is a great story David and I particularily liked Joe Franklin’s post also. I love to purge/recycle/toss/donate. I admit that sometimes I underestimate the importance of having stuff to remind you of your past, who you are, and where you came from. I’ve been rummaging around looking for some of that stuff lately. Yikes… am I starting to get sentimental?
Yes Annette, you are starting to get sentimental. Take two hugs and see your doctor in the morning. There may not be a cure.