Do I Need All This Stuff?

by Chris Bjorklund

Donating unused clothes and household items can be a liberating experience. Photo: We Love Small Jobs Handyman Services-Remodelers & Builders ©2018

Since the recent California wildfires, many of us have been reassessing our relationships to our possessions. Since my home was safe, my immediate response was to find useful items to donate to the fire victims. In fact, many Sonoma County donation sites were overwhelmed with people’s generosity and had to turn away used clothing and furniture. They requested cash donations instead or things like toaster ovens, hot plates and electric teapots for those living in temporary housing.

The stories about what evacuees took with them and what they left behind made many of us think about which of our belongings have value and meaning and which don’t. I heard a woman say she ran out of her house with the clothes on her back and two teacups and saucers that belonged to her mother and grandmother! Did any of the stories prompt conversations in your household? They did in ours.

After the October fires, my husband and I decided to review our homeowner’s insurance coverage, which we hadn’t done in several years. It was a good exercise and I came away reassured that we have adequate coverage. However, our agent recommended taking pictures and videos of valuables and uploading them to the insurance company’s website to help document items should there be a reason to file a claim in the future. I admit this project is still a work in progress.

In thinking about “stuff” after the fires, I’ve decided it’s time for a methodical whole-house purge. I’m going room by room, shelf by shelf and drawer by drawer, eliminating things I don’t need or love. The process is time-consuming and can be painful, but it’s liberating, too. I’m sorting through old LPs, selling some and donating others. I have clothes and jewelry that a young cousin was thrilled to have. When my sister-in-law admired a raincoat hanging in my closet, I gave it to her. I’ve made weekly trips to the Salvation Army.

My kitchen is full of duplicates. Do I need two woks? How did I get so many potato peelers? Will I ever use demitasse cups or after-dinner glasses again? Another donation bag is ready for drop-off. I haven’t even begun to tackle what’s under the house and in the garage. I know I want to find a good home for my 1971 Gitane 21-speed bike. I’m ready to donate it to one of the bicycle repair programs where young people are trained to fix bikes. If you know of any in your community, let me know!