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Left Coast / Right Coast: About Stuff

Mike Gold living the dream in the Pacific Northwest. Photo credit: Scott Brown.
Mike Gold living the dream in the Pacific Northwest. Photo credit: Scott Brown.

By Mike Gold, A retired entrepreneur living the dream in the Pacific Northwest.

There is a TV show called "Hoarders." It is about people who have a mental disorder, which does not allow them to get rid of anything. You will see someone (usually the real estate agent charged with selling the property) walk in and be “overwhelmed” by the amount of “stuff” inside that dwelling.

Included are newspapers for the past 40 years, and empty cat food cans. In some cases, they find dead cats, rats and mice. Often times, you cannot walk in the house without having to step on bundles of newspapers, magazines, bricks, cinder blocks, and just about everything you can imagine!

If the person is still living and they are asked: “why do you keep all this stuff?” Their answer is usually: “because someday I will need something that I’ve saved.”  Or, “if I don’t save it, on a given day I will be looking for that exact item.”

I can absolutely relate to that thought. Many is the time when I go looking for some little piece part to fix something that has broken in my home. And I recall: “I had the exact thing I needed – but I threw it out.” Problem is if I saved everything expecting to need that exact thing (from thousands of “things” I’ve saved,) then I would become a hoarder, subject to incarceration in the local mental ward.

Sometimes, things just work out. I needed a grommet for the firewall of my German sports car, which had begun to leak during heavy rain. (It is no fun to have your feet get wet as you drive along.) My best friend said: “wait here.” He disappeared into his basement and a minute or two later emerged with the exact grommet that I needed. It was the correct size (some oddball metric grommet). Voila, I had the leak fixed in a minute. What amazed me more was that my friend actually knew where to look to find the grommet.

Now, when we moved out of Massachusetts in 2000, we started to clean out our home of over 30 years. Among the things I found were:

  • 35 years of tax returns (your CPA will tell you that you only need the past three years).
  • Twenty years of issues of “Road and Track” magazine.
  • Furniture in some rooms that we had not used for decades. It just sat there serving no purpose other than to take up space.
  • Several rubber band balls (reminds me of a tourist attraction, "The Worlds Biggest Ball of Twine"). Every time I think of that attraction, I burst out laughing thinking: “One would have to have no life at all in order to spend half a lifetime building it.” Careful, or soon you will start to “resemble that remark.”

The south is famous for finding a shack alongside the road, which on the property you will see:

  • A number of busted washing machines.
  • Several cars in various states of disrepair.
  • Several busted refrigerators.
  • A broken commode or two.

Just remember, these people are afflicted with the same “disease” that affects us all. That being our reluctance to throw out some broken but perfectly repairable item. Many is the time that something will break in the house. Say a lamp. The light works perfectly well, but the stand is broken. Or the lampshade is torn. One’s instant thought is: “I can always use this in the basement, or my workshop.

Over the years I’ve developed a fondness for duct tape. Why? Because you can fix virtually anything with it. I’ve seen WWII combat airplanes which have had their fuselage and/or wings repaired with duct tape. (And yes, it is duct tape – from its use in joining parts of a heating system ductwork together with it. It is not DUCK TAPE which many people who don’t hear the “t” at the end of the first word mistakenly call it.) In fact, there is now a brand of duct tape called duck tape.

If I look in my garage, I know I have at least 50 rolls of duct tape – in every color of the rainbow. See, here is one case where my reluctance to throw out something makes perfect sense. And here is the best rule of thumb. If you have not touched any item in your home for two or more years, you can safely throw it out.

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