Dumping the past, boxes and boxes of it…

By Caitlin Kelly

Abandon hope, all ye who enter here!
Abandon hope, all ye who enter here!

Holy hell, people!

Have you ever gone through all your stuff: in the attic, in the basement, in the garage, in your storage locker(s)?

Jose and I have ruined spent the past few weekends, for two to four hours each time, cleaning out the dozens of boxes containing the detritus memorabilia of our shared and separate lives.

We live in, and I work in, a one-bedroom apartment with few closets, so we need additional storage space for out-of-season clothing, sports and camping gear, luggage.

But you know the deal — when you don’t know quite what to do with something, you tend to postpone a decision, instead tossing it (if you have space) into the attic, basement, garage or extra bedroom(s.)

Then one day you actually notice how many boxes and tubs there are — enough! Time to sort through it it all.

It’s exhausting, both physically and mentally: sort, decide, dump, donate, sell, keep, give away. Then photograph, measure and list it on Craigslist, Freecycle or Ebay, or drive it to the thrift store or consignment shop.

Or, if it really has potential monetary value, calling in an appraiser and/or dealer.

It’s hard to let go of things if, as many do, they also carry strong, happy emotional memories — your baby’s clothes, your wedding dress, notes for your thesis. It’s who we are, or once were.

It felt very weird to throw my hard-won early New York magazine clips into the garbage, (none of them on-line), but I’m not that person anymore. And no one is going to look at a story from 1995 or 1997!

We were dealing with/deciding about stuff like:

The box filled with all the gorgeous textiles my mother collected in her solo world travels: silk saris, embroidered cotton molas, exquisite woven wool mantas from Peru, all of which have value to a collector or dealer. (Kept them.)

All the wedding photos from my first wedding, filled with a blond, naive, hopeful 35-year-old pretending it was all going to be OK when I knew I was not. (Kept them.)

Huge, heavy piles of yellowed newsprint and tattered magazine pages, some of the hundreds of articles I’ve produced since I began working as a writer 30+ years ago. (Tossed them all. Gulp.)

The research notes for my two books. (Tossed.)

But we also made some happy re-discoveries, like my very first professional business card from the journalism job I loved most, as a feature writer for The Globe and Mail, Canada’s then only national newspaper.

And my sketches, paintings and journals from my trips to Kenya and Tanzania and New Zealand and Australia.

Jose found a signed note on heavy white card stock — The President — from George HW Bush, whom he photographed many times while in the White House Press Corps. I found a signed thank-you letter from the late great American choreographer Bob Fosse, to whom I had written a fan letter.

I still have the small, battered trunk I first took to summer camp when I was eight years old. Yes, I do, dammit!

Have you been cleaning out/tossing stuff?

Yours or someone else’s?

 

 

All Your Stuff Sold Without Your Consent? Ouch!

ray and my stuff, storage locker, dufferin
Image by PinkMoose via Flickr

It’s rare I identify completely with a celebrity who’s made the top of the Post’s Page Six, but this item did it for me:

Anthony Haden-Guest — the legendary British journalist and bon vivant who inspired the cynical Peter Fallow character in Tom Wolfe‘s “The Bonfire of the Vanities” — has been cleaned out.

The writer is distraught over the loss of a lifetime’s worth of valuables he put into storage when he moved back to London a couple of years ago.

In January, when he returned to New York, Haden-Guest learned that Public Storage, an international chain with facilities in Long Island City, Queens, had sold everything he owned to a single buyer. “Papers, books, art, furniture, clothes, 30 years of everything,” he told Page Six.

His art collection of more than 100 works — including pieces by David Salle, Ashley Bickerton and Donald Baechler — was said to be worth more than $1 million.

“I owed them $1,350 dollars. A couple of months before, my lawyer had asked them to give me details so I could wire them monthly payments. They refused. I called them to say I would settle when I got back to New York,” said Haden-Guest, the son of an English baron and the brother-in-law of Jamie Lee Curtis.

This happened to me, and to a close friend in Manhattan — where only the wealthiest (or most ascetic) don’t have a few storage lockers thanks to tight living quarters — a few years ago. I used to get monthly statements which, of course, I paid on time. They stopped coming….I got a notice giving me…days?…to deal with it, or maybe telling me they sold my stuff. I was so in shock I still don’t remember it.

I know, I know….How important can your things really be if they are in storage for years? Very, actually. We don’t all live in 4,000 square foot houses with tons and tons and tons of room to keep your stuff close at hand. I live and work in a shared one-bedroom apartment. We have several lockers, a few small ones and one very large one: it’s filled with out of season clothing, negatives and photos dating back decades for my partner, a professional photographer, sports gear, suitcases, furniture (sigh) we haven’t been able to sell or agree to donate, books, papers.

But also…artwork by my Dad, the Kevlar vest my sweetie wore while on assignment for six weeks in Bosnia, childhood artifacts.

We’re spending all day Saturday going through it — my goal to get rid of at least half so we can put it into a smaller space and pay half as much.

They sell your stuff before you can get to it and take the %#@!@#$## hours you need to sort through it all thoughtfully?

Yeah, that hurts.