The Old Coot says we’re buried in stuff

Stuff! Way too much stuff! How did we get here? Our homes are overflowing. Our attics are filled to the rafters. Our cars won’t fit in the garage. We buy Amish sheds and rent space in storage yards, yet we’re still buried in stuff. Our affliction is the focus of cable TV shows. Even Oprah covers it! A whole new branch of psychology has sprung up to deal with it.  

Old coots like me have an excuse. We’ve had a lot of time to accumulate our treasures. And, we’re cheap! We don’t throw anything out. “We might need it someday!” We grew up in a simpler world, the so called “good old days.” We remember all the good things; yet somehow forget the bad (like the summer semester in college when I was sent home because I wore shorts to school). 

But, one thing for sure, is that we lived with scarcity back then. We were the last generation before the “too much stuff” generation emerged. We had one winter coat, one pair of Levis, one of most things. We didn’t spend time mulling over what to wear. A family’s weekly garbage accumulation rarely filled a single metal can. Throwaway packaging was limited, if non-existent. Recycling was the norm; soda and milk came in reusable glass containers. Other products that came in glass were recycled too, baby jars into nuts, screw and bolt holders, pickle jars for collections (sea shells, marbles and many other items), newspapers for packing and window washing, cardboard boxes for storage bins, sleds and play houses. Today, it’s a razor thin line between an average residence and a hoarder’s nightmare.

It’s not just physical stuff we’re buried in. It’s TV, radio, other media, plus a hurricane storm of data, and information from social media, cable TV and the like. Hundreds of channels on TV – News all day – Weather forecasts that never stop, often with a prediction of doom that forces us to stay tuned. 

A simple cup of coffee isn’t simple anymore; we now have more options than I can count – regular, decaf, half-caf, dark, light, flavored and a litany of lattes and mochas with another litany of “stuff” that can be squirted or spooned in. We were lucky. We had one phone per household, often on a line shared with several other customers. There was only one TV station in town when the idiot box, as it was called, arrived at my house. Two other stations came a few years later, but you had to turn the rabbit ears to go from one to the other. And even then, you had to clip hunks of tinfoil to the ends of the “ears” to remove the “snow” from the picture. The evening news took 15 minutes. Now the weather forecast takes that long. The stations signed off at midnight, playing a scratchy Star-Spangled Banner record and turning the screen into a test pattern. 

Us old coots have an out – the “been around a long time” thing. But, most people with too much stuff are young (by old coot standards). Under 40. Even little kids are buried in stuff. I don’t know if our society can solve the problem, but it has created a lucrative business opportunity: the people who build sheds or set up rental storage facilities are rolling in the bucks, psychologists are getting their share of the pie, personal organizers (consultants) are starting to make the scene. 

But old coots are the best consultants. We know what to keep and what to throw away. If you need help, drop me a note at I’ll come over as soon as I can move aside the pile of stuff blocking my car in the garage.

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