For about the first decade and a half of my post-undergrad life, I moved house on a regular basis, progressing first through a series of progressively less crappy apartments and then through two stateside and one overseas Navy billets. This did a great job of keeping the accumulation of Stuff down to a tolerable minimum, since every time I — later, we — moved, a certain amount of Stuff would be deemed not the worth the trouble to transport and recategorized as Trash.
There were idiosyncratic categorizations, to be sure (my class notes from two semesters of Gothic at UPenn have been permanently classified as Important Stuff, even though I don’t think I’ve looked at them since I got the degree back in never-you-mind) and some equally idiosyncratic and regrettable losses (there was a nice silver necklace from Arizona that got lost somewhere between Philadelphia and Newport News, back in 1980 or so, for example), but by and large a certain equilibrium was maintained.
Then we moved to northern New Hampshire, and raised four kids, and put them all through college, and haven’t moved anywhere since we got here. And the Stuff keeps trying to take over.
Never mind the fact that more objects come into the house than leave it purely in the natural way of things. There are also those four kids. And one by one, they all went off to college with Stuff every year in the autumn, and came back every year in the spring with Stuff Plus, most of which stayed behind like sand and gravel after a receding glacier when they went back again to college with New Stuff in the fall. Four kids. Four years each — five, for one kid, because of weird required course scheduling — of undergrad, and then four years or so combined of grad school for two of them. That’s something on the general order of twenty-one kid-years’ worth of Stuff, almost all of it remaining in residence.†
And yet sometimes, I still wonder: How did I get from arriving in Philadelphia with one suitcase plus two footlockers to be sent along later, to this?
†Because you know that as soon as something gets thrown out, that bit of Stuff will suddenly turn out to be the one thing that’s desperately needed for some new project in their current life.