As I See It: Rationalizing Possessions | Columns


During a morning coffee meeting with three friends, I was surprised by the host’s announcement that he had sold his house and would like to show us around to see if he could. there was something we wanted.

He was moving from a house to a condo and wanted to get rid of some belongings before a garage sale.

“It’s just stuff,” he said. “I don’t want my daughters to have to take care of it while I’m gone.”

Well, I have a lot of stuff in my house that I should probably get rid of, but let’s take a look.

Books? I’m always behind on my reading list and my shelves are packed, but there were some great selections on jazz and Civil War history. I resisted the urge.

Furniture? No. We have what we need at this stage of life. In addition, its taste leans towards the more modern compared to our more traditional.

Hand tools? No, I have what I need and my major building projects are long over. They would just be duplicates.

Lawn and garden tools? Again, I thought I was ready, but I saw a small electric leaf blower. Once in a while I’d thought of blowing one up to blow the leaves off a roof valley at the back of the house from a bedroom window without having to step out onto the roof.

“I take it.”

Since the battery and charger are also suitable for an electric weed killer, my friend insisted that I take it as well. My old petrol model never ran very well anyway.

It was quite the opposite on the chainsaws. I have a small electric model (with cord), but here’s a gas model that could be used beyond extension cord lengths, so, “I’ll take that too.”

Also, a sturdy pole saw and branch pruner. No ladders needed.

But the biggest prize was a pair of fit, lightly used skis. I have been skiing for years on a pair of longer models from the earlier stage of lightly sculpted skis.

My bindings are also old and probably dangerous now. Ski tuners won’t touch them. Since my friend will be spending his winters in North Carolina, he was ready to get rid of his, which are shorter than mine but now better for turning more easily in my “golden” years. Since the bindings have adjustable heels, I could easily extend them for my bigger boots.

“Are you sure?” I asked.

“It would make me happy to know you ski on it,” he replied, knowing my love of the sport from a few past trips to Gunstock together.

The other two morning coffee friends picked up similar items in their own areas of interest, easing inventory for our friend’s yard sale and possible storage needs.

But then we took our treasures home to add to our own stockpile of things. One day, too, we’ll face the same need for downsizing, but in the meantime, we’ll find uses for items we didn’t know we needed before our visit.

Things can build up over time as the need arises and then drag on beyond that point when the need has passed. It is a question of when this point has arrived. Letting go takes determination and courage to break free from an overabundance of possessions.

I haven’t reached that point yet, and I will definitely be using this leaf blower and skis. But one day, they too will be pruned from my property or my estate, by me or by an heir.

When that moment comes, we are still reluctant to let go.

“Every item that comes out of the door has a memory associated with it,” my friend commented on his downsizing. “It breaks my heart. I designed every inch of this house, but circumstances are changing. I have to let go. It’s time to move on.”

As it will be for each of us in turn in his time.

Possessions are first necessities, but later burdens. Life evolves.

Stuart Deane lives in Newburyport.


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