Skip to main content
Winter Park / Maitland Observer Thursday, Feb. 11, 2010 7 years ago


Meditations on stuff
by: Chris Jepson Staff Writer

"Twice as much

Ain't twice as good."

— John Mayer in "Gravity"

I kid you not, there are people out there working away with the job title of "Compulsive Hoarding Expert." I, too, am an expert, a professional in such matters.

I have figured out one of the genuine blessings for having children. You can giv'um stuff — furniture, books, art. Stuff! My daughter has been the recipient of untold stuff. Chairs and couches. Bookcases. Books. Dishes. Art. My wife once upon a time, in a pique, unloaded an incredible assortment of stuff that even yet today I'll see in my daughter's home and go, "Damn, when did I give you that?" Hah! Hah! We laugh. Hmm? I joke, I jest, Josie.

My middle child, too, has received load after load of dishes, lamps and furniture but he has not yet acquired the ability to hold onto it. My youngest child with his girlfriend will be returning from NYC to Central Florida in the fall, and I am already putting together piles of "stuff" required for establishing a household. I set aside five "Coke" chairs that were common in soda shops of the 1920s; I was with my mother when she purchased them in South Sioux City, Neb. in 1959 for $5 a piece. They've been with me 40 years. Lots of memories. Time to go.

I unloaded this past Super Bowl night one of two "jury panel" chairs I acquired god only knows where. I gave my daughter one, to the son goes the other. But I am only scratching the surface. Don't ask to see my closets. I am one of "those!" You know, them! I'm just short of the stereotype of the guy who opens his closet door and is immediately buried under a cascading avalanche of stuff. I am sooo embarrassed. Actually, I am not. You know why? Cuz my crap is all neatly boxed and labeled. It would never "fall" out of the closet.

Like that makes a difference. I come by my "acquisition skills" naturally. My father was the type of man who saved stuff. I've seen him recycle nails pulled out of a demolished building. A coffee can full of bent, pulled nails in a few minutes would be skillfully hammered straight on concrete and tossed back in the can and put on the back shelf ready, decades later, for that one special occasion requiring such nails. Oh, he saved a nickel, maybe a dime.

After my parents divorced in 1970 (28 years of marital bliss, well, at times.) all brakes were removed from Dad's inhibitions at collecting. The house methodically filled up with stuff acquired at estate and yard sales. He took tables and stacked them on top of each other, three high in the dining room and then filled them all up with glass objects that when the light was right no doubt filled his heart with delight.

My bedroom, which consisted of two rooms, actually became the lamp repository. Lamps on the sleeping porch and shades in the other. Floor to ceiling. Among his children it became "a" running joke on how "Dad had cornered the Sioux City market for used lamps." I have absolutely no idea why he devoted so much space to used lamps.

Yes, I do. For a buck. My Father, a retired corporate lawyer, ran a "flea market" out of the basement. He'd buy something for a buck, clean it, fix it, cosmetically alter it and sell it for $3. Such finances floated his boat. Mentally speaking. Lamps, however, were not a high-demand object. When he died, they ended up dumped. Sigh. He did, however, make "good" money on the rest of it. Incredibly so.

My tastes are "too sophisticated" for the likes of what excited my father. Yes, sirreee, Bob! What he did was for the joy of turning a profit on a relative piece of junk. Although, over the years the dining room slowly filled up with "quality" stuff, that when he died, fetched thousands. Only his more "valued" flea market customers, a mere handful, ever got to see the sacred, inner-sanctum dining room display. They immediately showed up at his death to "first dibs" the remains — of his stuff.

Yes, I have stuff from when I was a teenager, acquired and prized and nearly all of it boxed. But it's been the last 40 years that I have consistently acquired stuff. I love knicky-knacks. I do. Little objets d'art. One-of-kind antiques. One-off college senior art projects. Beautiful stuff. Ceramics. Pottery up the ying-yang. Countless art fair acquisitions. Paintings. Framed paintings. Paintings unframed and in folios surrounded by acid free paper. Stuff!

You see something that makes you laugh or is genuinely beautiful and unique and if there is sufficient jingle in your pocket, you buy it. But as the decades pass and if you're not acquiring the homes necessary to display all your acquisitions (an advantage of "real" wealth), priority of space becomes the issue.

I was recently at the Gallery on First in Sanford and saw a beautiful little object for $X. I could afford it. I wanted it. I did. I longed for it. But where do I put it? Besides, I have boxed away "stuff" of equal or superior beauty that hasn't seen the light of day for a decade. But what have you done for me lately? Art that once moved me may not so much inspire me today as one's tastes constantly change and evolve. And isn't that great.

Upgrades. A couch you had in your 20s may make you shudder in your 60s. Hopefully, not too much. But life to a certain extent is about upgrades. Just look at what we now own (require?) for televisions. Or, stereo systems. Our possessions are no different. And into the boxes go our old choices, the acquisitions of our youth, the had-to-owns of a different day. I highly prize one-offs. I have sufficient vanity to own/possess that which no one else does. And, you know what? Into the boxes it goes. Stacked like so much cordwood in my closets and garage. Burn me on it, children.

Nah, I'm on a tear to clean it all out. Books. I unloaded about 3,000 books in the late 70s in Columbia, Miss. I did it again, unloaded books, a decade ago, and I am going to condense all my books down to two large bookcases. Going, going, gone!

And over the next year, my closets (and garage) will, well, I will actually again see the corners. Of the ceiling, at least. Hah!

And to my children, thanks! For handling all my bull and for taking my stuff. Or, is that "veecha-versa," as they say.

Related Stories