Too Much Stuff

As the late comedian George Carlin once said “A house is just a pile of stuff with a cover on it.” I was thinking about that awhile back on one of my daily walks, when I came across a whole lot of “stuff” spread out on someone’s front lawn and across the boulevard. There were old tools and pieces of metal and wood, boxes and other items you might find in a workshop.

The thing is, I saw the same junk out on that lawn almost a week later. I wondered, are they just going to leave it there until someone from the city has to come and clean it up? I know that happens a lot.

On another walk, I found an interesting collection on top of a manhole cover, pictured here. A pair of slip on boots and a wine glass. My imagination ran wild. Someone who had been partying a bit too much? Maybe fell down the manhole? Or was beamed up into a UFO? Of course it was probably just someone trying to get rid of their stuff.

That was confirmed days later when I came across the same spot. The boots were gone, but the wine glass was still there. And added to the collection was a frying pan and some cutlery. Dinner is served.

My husband and I have occasionally put things out on the boulevard with a “free” sign, and usually someone will take it. If it isn’t claimed within a day or so, we put it back inside and find another way to get rid of it.

Many years ago we left an old sofa out on the boulevard and watched through our living room window as a couple of young guys plopped each end of the sofa on their skateboards and rolled it away. Perfect.

Old couches and chairs are probably one of the more common sights on the side of the street. What I don’t get is why someone would leave them out there when it’s raining? I mean, if it wasn’t that appealing to begin with, a stuffed chair that has been left in the rain to rot is even less so.

Actually, in these days of COVID, I wouldn’t take anyone’s old couch anymore. You never know where it’s been.

And then there are the electronics. I’ve seen stereos, tv’s, computers and toaster ovens left out in the rain. If they were in working order once, they’re not anymore. What are people thinking? Well, that’s just it. They’re not.

When I left home at 18 years old, all I had was my bed, a dresser, some clothes and my guitar. Every time I moved after that, I seemed to have more things to pack up. Now I sit in a big house with more things than I’ll ever know what to do with. Not just my stuff, but my family’s old stuff too. I need to feng shui and declutter pretty badly.

In a few years, we will have to downsize and I’m not going to be able to bring everything with me. Neither of my kids wants any of it and I don’t blame them. They want to buy their own stuff. And things like old silverware and china don’t appeal to younger generations. They prefer new things from Ikea.

I have a feeling that the first year or two of my retirement is going to be spent just getting rid of stuff. And in the meantime, I’ve got to train myself to stop buying more stuff.

Except for that new bedroom set. I DO need that.

“Hello, How Are You Today?”

I had a most interesting phone conversation today, but for the life of me, I can’t remember most of it.  It’s not that the guy on the other end didn’t try;  in fact, he tried too hard really.  He went on for 20 minutes, almost straight through, making points for his cause.  He was from a charitable organization, one that I used to send regular monthly contributions to.  I won’t say what the organization is, because that’s not the point.

For a number of years I supported this organization until I gradually began to feel less comfortable with it;  maybe I changed, maybe they did.  For the last two years that I supported it, I was rather resentful of the money I was giving them every month.  Now it’s not that I sent a whole lot; it was minimal, really.  But I began to feel that I was wasting my money supporting something I was not 100% behind.  Finally, when I had to close a bank account for another reason, I used that opportunity to stop sending them cheques.  And of course, at first they did their utmost to convince me to continue.

And that became a problem.

I understand that charities and organizations who depend on the general public’s generosity struggle a great deal with the financial aspect.  I recognize that it’s not an easy job finding ways to convince people to send more money, or to send money at all.  A lot of them are proud of the fact when they have no government or corporate funding (as this fellow pronounced to me today), and do it all themselves.  And it’s not easy.

But when they continue to call, or send emails or monthly newsletters as if I had a subscription…but ESPECIALLY when they continue to call…they are driving me even further away.  Not only that, but they are spending an awful lot of time and paper, and therefore that money that is so precious to them, on somebody who really is not interested.  Maybe there should be a “best before” date beside the names on their lists.  If the person they’re calling doesn’t change their mind within, say, three or four calls, give it a rest.  And stop sending newsletters that only get immediately thrown in the recycling box.

For the last 3 years, I have had continuous newsletters and phone calls from them.  And what struck me interesting about this conversation today was that this fellow really knew his stuff.  He could discuss issues here where I live (he was calling from across the country), and around the world in many areas of interest.  He knew histories of all kinds of problems, and, according to his monologue, he had actually been to many of these countries himself and witnessed all that he was speaking about.  He was a smart, intelligent man, well spoken and not the least bit provocative in a negative way.  And when he finally took a breath, I had a chance to say that I was no longer interested and had not been interested since I had stopped my payments several years ago, and could he kindly take my name off his list?

He said of course that could be done, and then he did the obvious thing;  he asked me why I had stopped my support in the first place.  So I told him why.  Whereupon he began again to tell me why I shouldn’t feel that way.  And the conversation (or should I say monologue) picked up fervor again as he began to list all of the accomplishments, behind the scenes virtues and triumphs of said organization.  I felt myself “um-hmm”ing all over again for another ten minutes.  At one point he was speaking so much and so quickly, that he choked and coughed.

Finally, I was able to get a question in.  “How old are you?”  I asked him.  I knew I’d thrown him and that’s what I needed to do.  “Um…I’m forty.” he said.  “Oh, you sound younger.” I took my opportunity to continue.

“You’re obviously a very intelligent and well spoken person and (insert name of organization) is lucky to have you.  But I’m finished listening, so I’m going to have to hang up now.”  And with that, we ended the conversation.  By this time I was actually feeling a bit of a headache coming on.  I swear that as much as he told me in that 20-25 minutes, much of it I didn’t hear because I was spending a lot of the time trying to figure out how I was going to stop him without being rude.  That’s something a lot of these callers depend on;  your politeness.  So everything he told me, was in fact, falling on deaf ears.  Was it worth the effort?

I’d guess they’ll tell you that it is worth it, because if they can convince one person to part with their money…well, you know the rest.  Sometimes these people treat their causes like religion;  they believe in it so much that they spend all of their time and energy trying to convert everyone else around them, like religious fanatics.  And I don’t know what the answer is when it comes to how they can solicit funds without turning people off.

But it’ll be interesting to see if they ever call again.  And if they do, THEN what do I do??