UNITED STATES-Storage lockers can be seen as the ludicrous but logical extension of our love of “stuff.” Silly fools-we think-to be paying good money to keep all that stuff. So much that one has never had the time to look at, much less use, so much that may be of value, and there it stagnates.
And yet, despite the obvious folly, there abound potent factors that inhibit one from eliminating unwanted storage lockers-one is the notion that there may be a treasure lurking in the junk that’s going to get thrown out, even though what many people have been paying, over the course of months and years, has far outstripped the value of the stuff quarantined in their locker.
There are always stories that have launched a million hoarders, like the Jackson Pollack painting found at a yard sale in San Bernardino. But you never hear the story of somebody who lived with a painting they hated for 50 years. It all goes back to a love of “stuff” and not wanting to let it go.
Why is it so hard to tame a storage space? You’ve turned your back on something, it exists out of sight, out of mind; and it supports a growing multi-billion dollar industry and makes for good reality TV. Perhaps the strongest reason of all for clinging to stuff is a natural reluctance to face the past. Myriad emotions lie there waiting to be awoken from there silent slumber: sadness, anxiety, regret, nostalgia. How did all it get here? Well, one box at a time and then you’ve created an emotion-fused monument whose inertia rivals the pyramids of Egypt. It can be dismantled one box at a time, but it’s not easy. It takes:
–Clarity of aim
–Fortitude (lots of that)
I should know. I recently went through the draining and ultimately heartening experience of cleaning out a storage locker. It was a dream situation, unimaginable till now. My Mom, having grown up in leaner times, rarely wanted to part with things when we were growing up. There was always a practical or sentimental reason to hang on to the stuff. Now my mom, the queen packrat, as she rides into the sunset in a Delta 88 Oldsmobile, has decided it’s time to clear out a locker and hang onto that rent money. I was called in to help with the mission.
Like a soldier itching for the first taste of combat, I was ready for this. After a childhood largely at the mercy of encroaching stuff in the house and then the garage which ceased to house two cars around the time Nixon resigned, and then no cars as my mom indulged “Texas cleaning”-scooting boxes of stuff out of the house and into the garage on the eve of social gatherings at our house. This practice spilled over implacably into the storage lockers.
The clear-stated goal was to help get Mom out of one of the things that were costing her money: an office unused since my dad died, a small storage locker, and a large storage locker. Arriving in my hometown with nervous energy to undertake the mission and reverse the curse of fatalism that had often bedeviled many of my family’s travel and home improvement plans, I awoke with an unswerving conviction: we shall get out of the large locker. To make it stick, I wrote out in my spiral pocket notebook: We’re gonna clear out the storage locker, Call Goodwill pickup, family memorabilia concentrate, possible SALE items set aside.
An hour later, after rolling up the metal awning to reveal the cavernous warehouse you see at the end of the first Indiana Jones movie-no way were we going to tackle the large locker.
It had to be the small locker that we would work on. I hadn’t even seen it yet, but knowing what I know now, I would now describe it as the “small” locker. When we returned in the afternoon to commence work I brought a lawn chair, a thermos of ice-water, some snacks, and a radio. There had to be a way to make this fun as we hunkered down to face a formidable foe.
To be continued
Humorist Grady Miller is the author of “Lighten Up Now: The Grady Diet.” He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.