Get The Flame-Thrower! Two People Need Six Hours to Clear Out Ten Years' Worth Of Crap?

Storage Unit
Image by Penningtron via Flickr


We started this morning at 9:30 and simply gave up in weary surrender at 2:30, running to KFC for a little disgusting junk-food solace.

So much crap. Two career journos who like to read: photos, negatives, framed artwork, furniture and cookware he kept when he moved into my small apartment 10 years ago.

I did find some very dear treasures, from the cat hand puppet of my childhood to a photo of me in January 1994 on Ko Phi Phi, a remote island off of Southern Thailand to my sketchbook from 1998 with my watercolors of Melbourne and New Zealand’s Coromandel Peninsula. Then there were the engagement photos of me and my ex-husband and even the seating chart for our wedding dinner.  Former beaux cropped up in numerous photos.

Some of it was sad and painful — lots of cards from and photos of the woman who was my closest friend for a decade, who dropped me forever after she married. I found tons of art supplies: pastels, sketchbooks, my colored pencils and watercolors. I loved seeing my paintings from Mexico — where I took an afternoon art class in Spanish in Coyoacan, a suburb of Mexico City. Serendipity turned up some materials that exactly fit my current needs, from a book on handling arthritis pain to a labor study from a week-long journalism fellowship in September 2001; I was on a suburban Maryland college campus on 9/11.

We also, eerily, found a color postcard of the World Trade Center — the day my partner was to move from his Brooklyn apartment into mine was 9/11. Instead, he edited photos for his newspaper job from his apartment and I spent the day in Maryland wondering if he was alive or dead.

My sweetie found a ton of memorabilia — like the color photo of him with Larry Hagman dressed as Santa Claus with Nancy Reagan, in a typically red suit, laughing behind the three of them. Or him posing with George H.W. Bush and Barbara. (White House annual holiday party, open to all members of the White House Press Corps.) A deeply mushy note from an ex? Torn to bits. Ouch!

He’s a Buddhist, but boy do we have a lot of crap. We barely got through half of it today so next Saturday is devoted to finishing the job. Out forever will go the four-foot high stereo speakers as we try to compress everything left into a much smaller, cheaper space. It makes me crazy to spend good money to store…junk. It’s not junk, but what is it? Memories. Stuff, for now, we’re not ready to toss entirely.

I’d flame it all, but I treasure my mother’s typewritten letters, photos and negatives and slides dating back decades and, yes, my bloody clips. His life, like mine, has been filled with adventure, sports, travel and some historic news photos, by him and by others. I adore the 1959 black and white photo he found of his Dad — a Baptist minister long-dead who I never met — complete with those wavy 1950s photo edges. In it, he’s wearing three pairs of eye-glasses at once.

I’d never pictured his Dad being goofy and playful so this is a new image, and one worth framing.

Next week…who knows?

14 thoughts on “Get The Flame-Thrower! Two People Need Six Hours to Clear Out Ten Years' Worth Of Crap?

  1. vickielyna

    I once asked my grandmother why she moved so much (from west to east coast and often across town). Her answer was “it gave her an excuse to get rid of junk”. Boy did that work because junk (stuff) she didn’t have.

    The think it was rude of her not to pass on that gene. Quite the contrary. I am a crafter. I never met a piece of yarn I didn’t like. A scrap of material I couldn’t see as something else.

    When I moved 11 years ago. My family said “doen’t hire a moving company we will move you”. To the person, after seeing a moving company load up a family size van said, “were was all this stuff”, and “thanks for getting others to move you we couldn’t have done it”.

    Now 11 years later, I am supprised to say I have no more stuff today then I did then. Only because one day I looked around and thought if I keep collection things I will have to move out.

    So I discovered 20 yearolds that needed furniture, dishes, etc.
    Told them it was theirs if the carried it out.

    I actually felt a supprising sense of relief when it was gone. Didn’t miss any of it.

    Now you have me thinking the file cabinets need me. Hello 1800getRidOfJunk!

  2. Caitlin Kelly

    I hate to admit how many pieces of fabric I have — and no sewing machine. I also collect antique textiles: time to sell some of it. I like the method you used to get rid of stuff. It requires serious stamina to dump it in volume and make progress.

  3. citifieddoug

    I enjoyed this piece, but you knew we were going to ask you to share some of your watercolors, right? I’m asking.

  4. Caitlin Kelly

    Gulp. I have to photograph them and upload the pix. Only if no one laughs! I grew up the daughter of a very talented amateur artist so am always pretty shy about orhers’ opinion of my daubs.

    1. citifieddoug

      I will not laugh, nor make fun. In other words, mine will be a short comment. Why would you be surprised we’d want to see your paintings? Your readers already enjoy your perspective in text.

  5. Jerry Lanson

    You’re actually pretty efficient. It took Kathy and I much of last summer just to clean out our garage. And the real challenge is the basement, which we’ve put off for three years. I love such occasions nearly as much as I loathe them. They always turn up odd memorabilia that tugs one back to places lost in time. Nice piece.

  6. Caitlin Kelly

    Thanks! We’re having so much fun today going through all sorts of childhood photos and framing some of them. It blew me away to find my journal from Mexico when I was 14, among other stuff. It’s motivating in that respect.

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  8. stagemanager

    A Baptist preacher’s kid turned Buddhist who values photos of presidents and first ladies, yet tears to bits a deeply mushy note from an ex. What’s wrong in this picture?

  9. Caitlin Kelly

    stagemanager, it’s all about what we now value — or do not. He’s still friends with that ex, (as am I), but he’s not someone likely to cling to the sentimental on paper over the current real personal relationship. Nor am I. I found many cards from and photos of my former best friend, and plan to mail the photos back to her and threw away all the cards. That friendship is dead and gone, so hanging onto to bits of it on paper seems silly.

    The photos of presidents and first ladies matter to him because it was a childhood dream of his to join the White House press corps as a photographer, which he did. It was a great adventure and a happy time for him. I get it.

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