Lee Wochner: Writer. Director. Writing instructor. Thinker about things.


Stuff happens

So that we could select and purchase the large Christmas present I’d promised her, my wife and I drove two hours roundtrip yesterday through a monsoon that ripped the roof off the house of someone I know. The entire way down, she asked how I felt about driving in the rain, and shouldn’t we turn back?

I said, “Boy, you really have lived in L.A. for 30 years now. It’s just rain.”

To be fair, it was just rain in the way that the federal debt is just like owing somebody a fiver. At one point, I saw a truck coming up the freeway run through a puddle and the resulting wave washed entirely over a car in front of me.

But I was on a mission to pick up this Christmas present that day, because of scheduling and also because of the planning we’d have to do around its placement.

The object in question is five feet tall, three feet deep, and three feet across, weighs about as much as a football huddle, and is clearly functional in purpose, but my wife thinks it’s also decorative because it’s so nicely made. In representing permanence, it reminds me of the heavy furniture Kafka so feared in all the letters he wrote to the fiancee he never married.

In practical terms, this means we don’t know where to put it when it arrives.

I proposed upstairs in the walk-in closet. She said downstairs in the guest room. Later, she offered the idea of putting it in the room we’re turning into a library. Both of us nixed the garage as a place for it. No matter where it goes, we’ll have to rearrange everything else already in that room.

Here’s what happens when you live in a house for 25 years: You accumulate stuff. Especially if you have children who grow up in the house, but who then move away but leave all their stuff there, and especially if you have a large garage, and especially if you add a second story to the house as we did. If you live on a boat, or in a 200-square-foot apartment in lower Manhattan like friends of ours, you are careful about what you bring home; everything new coming in means that something old must be going. If you have almost 3,000 square feet of house, not counting that garage or all that space under the carport, then you gradually turn into the Collyer brothers, and find the show “Hoarders” oddly reassuring: “Oh, see? We’re not that bad!”

A few years ago, Marie Kondo’s book about all the joy that tidying up can bring you lit a fire under us, and bit by bit we’ve grown merciless about parting with some things, mostly old clothes, boxes of bills stretching back decades, and “fun” knick-knacks that neither of us will admit to having bought. We’ve pulled bag-loads of unidentifiable kitchen gadgets out of drawers, donated barrels of toys, and tossed away every dry pen and broken pencil. So there’s been some progress.

The true challenge is in the realm of large items (like our new purchase), or items that are so interrelated and numerous as to constitute a larger whole. Books, for example, fill about a dozen bookcases, and no, I won’t part with them, because I learned my lesson in college; after selling back my books one semester because I was destitute, years later I bought them all back — meaning I paid full retail twice! I have two lateral file cabinets of my papers (various drafts, plus correspondence), plus there are the family files. The garage has 25 years of camping equipment, sports equipment, holiday decorations, tools, bicycles, and the gym I set up this summer because the actual gyms are closed. And, I have about 50 long boxes of comic books, or, as I like to think of them, “almost enough.”

Tonight, while playing pinochle with our two sons, my wife returned to the topic of where to put the large object; once placed, it can’t be moved. I couldn’t concentrate on that, though, because I was working to hide my glee at the double-run of spades secretly nesting in my hand. She, meanwhile, was volubly considering laying in additional electrical work in one of the rooms for the new object. Gradually, this turned into commentary from both of us about how things would have to move, or go, and how to get rid of more stuff, and how we ought to do that tomorrow, while our big strapping soldier-son who loads and unloads large trucks for the Army is still here on leave.

At some point, I took something out to the recycling can, now curbside and awaiting pickup in the morning. I caught a glimpse of our neighbor’s house before coming back inside. The neighbor was supposed to be in Texas for a week now, but his truck was still there.

“Did he actually go on his trip?” I asked our younger son, who often tends to the neighbor’s house while he’s away. The neighbor, who is everything anyone could hope for in a neighbor, had left him with a set of keys.

Our son confirmed that our neighbor was still home.

“Well, if he’s going to be home all week, how are we going to be able to break in?” I asked.

“Oh God,” my wife said. “That’s the last thing we need: more stuff!”

“No kidding,” I said. “I figured if he wasn’t there we could break in and drop off some of our stuff. Just put a bit of it in every room to get rid of it. Maybe he wouldn’t even notice!”

Anyone want a large (but heavy) working TV? Or one section of a sectional sofa, brand-new in box? How about some fun bric-a-brac? These and more items are getting offered for free pickup starting tomorrow.

2 Responses to “Stuff happens”

  1. Dan Says:

    We’ve got a betting pool going her about what “the object” is. Odds favor a Mechanical Bull Ride, but I think it’s Robby the Robot.

  2. Mike Folie Says:

    A walk-in humidor?

Leave a Reply