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When Michelle and I moved from our apartment in New Richland to our house in Ellendale all those years ago, we were amazed at how much stuff we had accumulated after being married less than a year. We had been thinking we’d have lots of room in our new house after living in a two-bedroom apartment – not so.

If we moved now, I’d really be frightened. Our stuff has grown exponentially. That is somewhat natural with two children and a cat along the way. There are plenty of old toys the kids have outgrown, as well as clothes and other items we’ve failed to rid ourselves of at various garage sales over the years.

Michelle and I have talked about downsizing and really going through all this stuff and making the tough decisions on what we really need to keep. She always rolls her eyes when I clean through my closet; the number of T-shirts I have is astronomical, somewhat of a by-product of having successful sports teams and buying all those conference/state shirts!

My sister Angie has been discovering this lately as well. She and her family are waiting for the finishing touches on their new house. Meanwhile, they’ve been living in an apartment with the bare minimum; it’s not as easy to go from a house to an apartment as the other way around. She’s realized just what they can get by on, and that attitude could carry over when they move in the new house next month. Or maybe not.

We tend to fill the space we have. We throw things out as they get old or donate gently-used items to make way for new items over the years, but could we clean out enough to have an empty room in our house?

I wrote earlier this year about my grandma moving from her house into a senior apartment complex. This past week, she had an auction to get rid of much of the stuff that had been in her house, garage, shed, etc. When asked if she’d miss any of the items, many of which belonged to my grandpa who died 25 years ago, she said, “I took what I wanted to my apartment.” What a refreshing thought! So many times we get nostalgic over items that we’ll place in a box and not look at again for years. That doesn’t seem to make much sense in many cases.

Grandma was worried that nobody would show up for a Thursday afternoon auction, but 107 bidders were there to vie for the many tools, antiques, and various other items, including appliances and furniture. Grandma was constantly amazed when people would pay large amounts for things she didn’t think much of (a Schell’s beer baseball player-shaped keychain brought $30), but barely anything for big things like chairs and tables (some of which went for $1).

I told her it’s all about what somebody cares to add to his or her stuff. Ultimately, I would bet that much of the stuff from Grandma’s auction will end up on somebody else’s auction someday! What else would you eventually do with a hardcover guide to how to fix old TV sets? If you paid $25 for it, you’re not going to recycle it!

Pardon an aside here: Auctions are fascinating social events. People prowl around the hayracks for a couple hours prior to the auction, looking not only at the things for sale, but also at the competition. The auction started at 3, but I was outside about 1:30, keeping an eye on things and people watching. I wasn’t bored for one minute!

It’s fun watching people getting caught up in bidding wars and paying much more than the actual value of something just so they can win. And only at an auction would you watch two people related to one another bid against each other for an ashtray with an old family business name on it!

Anyway, my eyes were opened more than ever after Grandma’s auction. She didn’t seem to have problems parting with all this stuff. Hopefully my parents and my own family can follow suit. Auctions can be fun, but wouldn’t it be better to not have so much stuff to worry about in the first place?

Word of the Week: This week’s word is accouterment, which means personal clothing or accessories, as in, “The columnist realized how boring the word stuff was and found a good synonym for it in accouterment.” Impress your friends and confuse your enemies!


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