‘There’s too much crap!’
It started with a simple, all-American ritual: the Saturday garage sale.
My best friend and I were both readying to move and, facing the prospect of packing up our respective current households, realized we both were in possession of a lot of stuff we didn’t want to move from one address to another.
I combed through my house, rummaging through closets, cupboards and drawers for things my husband and I no longer needed, wanted or had room for in the move.
There were bags of clothes, boxes of CDs, books and DVDs, and a seemingly endless pile of assorted household miscellany: Pots and pans, lamps and knickknacks, big pieces of furniture and tiny little doodads.
The resulting garage sale, held at my friend’s house, covered her massive driveway, and lured in an array of shoppers seeking stuff on the cheap—everything moved to sell with items priced between 10 cents and $10.
I made nearly $300 and yet, by late afternoon, found myself giving things away—unashamedly accosting strangers with piles of free clothes and trinkets.
And still the pile never seemed to shrink. At the end of the day we carted off two SUV loads of stuff to the nearest thrift store.
It felt good to purge and, momentarily, I was proud of the way I unflinchingly thinned out our possessions.
And then I started packing for the move and realized how deep the abyss of useless items really was.
Clothes and kitchen goods, paperback novels and old vinyl, a mountain of shoes and a towering pile of cute vintage tchotchkes that, at one point or another, I’d felt compelled to buy.
Some of the items seemed priceless to me—I could never part with the miniature vintage toy wooden Ferris wheel I’d picked up for a few dollars at the flea market—but the other stuff?
Sweet baby Jesus—what had become of me?
“There’s too much crap!” I wailed late one night as I stood in the kitchen trying to sort through an ever-growing heap of Tupperware, mugs, utensils and God-knows-what-else.
My husband poked his head in the door and surveyed the mess with amusement.
“If you weren’t married to me, you’d end up on one of those shows about hoarders,” he said.
So true. I reuse, resell, recycle and donate like crazy, but when it comes to the cult of stuff, I’m definitely part of the problem.
According to a study released by the Environmental Protection Agency, Americans make more than 200 million tons of garbage each year, throwing out or recycling landfills’ worth of paper products, aluminum and other random bits of janky junk. And it’s an endless cycle.
Bad economy? You couldn’t tell from the way we drop our hard-earned cash, checks and charges on clothing, electronics and other disposable goods.
In 2009, according to the most recent data provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the average American spent $1,725 each year just on “apparel and services” alone.
Seriously, how many black hoodies and pairs of boots do I really need? Apparently enough to clothe and shod an entire small village.
We each racked up another $2,693 on entertainment items and a whopping $5,127 on “other” expenditures.
That’s a lot of ceramic cats, Tupperware and God-knows-what-else.
We’ve since moved into our new house, but the purging continues. This weekend my friend and I will throw another garage sale, this one stocked with a still-mounting mass of things I once absolutely, positively, most-definitely had to have.
Now, it’s goodbye to all that: all my life for sale, reasonably priced from 10 cents to $10. From my house to yours, the chain of accumulation remains unbroken.