If it belongs to me, or used to belong to me, or someone gave it to me at some point, I can part with it. That’s not hard at all. The trick is: deciding what to do with other people’s things. Other People’s Stuff is what poses a problem. Would the Other People rebel if I got rid of their Stuff? I was about to find out.
The other day, we got a phone call from the local chapter of S.A.J. (Services Against Junk). I happened to be the unlucky one who answered the phone. The conversation went something like this:
SAJ: Is this Miss MOV?
Me: (panicking, after recognizing the SAJ name on the caller ID) Uh, how did you get this number?
SAJ: That’s irrelevant. This is Stacey Wiggums from the Crazy Town Services Against Junk. Are you familiar with our agency?
SAJ: I can tell by your long uncomfortable silence that you are. Well, then you probably have heard our mission statement before? “Treat the Junk Like a Skunk, Get it Out Before We Shout!” Catchy, isn’t it?
Me: But, I don’t understand. I don’t have any junk. I'm a Virgo. My house is pristine and spotless. You obviously have me confused with someone else. This is all a big mistake.
SAJ: Ah, Miss MOV, that’s where you’re wrong. We’ve had some complaints filed against you lately.
Me: (outraged) Complaints? Against me? By whom?
SAJ: We are unable to reveal our sources, but let’s just say, between you and me, I’d be a little bit more careful who you invite to your next wine and cheese party.
Me: Was it Linda? I saw her open my closet, to “put away” a coat, that’s what she said she was doing. Or Vic? He seems nice, but maybe he was one of those tattle-tale kind of kids in grade school. Or Nanette? She “accidentally” walked in the garage, saying she was looking for the guest bathroom—ha! I’ll bet it wa....
SAJ: M’am! It doesn’t matter! What matters here right now is that the truck is on its way over.
Me: (panicky) Truck? What truck?
SAJ: The Services Against Junk truck. I need you to go get all your junk as soon as we get off the phone and take it out front.
Me: (in denial) I don’t know what you’re talking about. I'm telling you, I don’t have any junk. I need everything that's here.
SAJ: Those large Lego pieces that don’t go to anything? The broken vase that you “might” glue back together? The old videos, on Beta for goshsakes? The two dozen or so extension cords? The weird metal clip thing that you can’t remember what it goes to?
Me: But, but, but ... those aren’t even mine. Those belong to my husband or my kids. Why should I be punished for their stuff?
SAJ: (exasperated) Look, ma’am, do I need to get my supervisor on the phone? You know what the problem is. You have about an hour and a half to deal with it. The truck has been dispatched.
As soon as I got off the phone, I cried. Then, I did what Stacey told me to do. I started gathering up the specific items she had named, plus the broken crayons, the itchy socks, the lamp that needed re-wiring, the books with pages ripped out (thanks, Short), the chair that was missing a leg, the toy elephant with the stuffing coming out, the suitcase with the broken pull-up handle, the endless supply of home décor magazines, the left-over dried-out paint from two houses ago ... I placed the items in boxes and bags and put them on the front porch.
Ninety minutes after I'd hung up the phone with Stacey, the truck pulled up. Three guys in dark green jumpsuits walked towards the house. “We’re with Services Against Junk,” said one. He had an accent. Services came out like “sir—veeces.” I nodded. What else could I do?
The Husband, known primarily for his skill at coming-home-right-when-I-bake-cookies, chose this moment to return from work. But instead of fresh-baked cookies, he was coming home to his junk being tossed forever, right along side the excess junk formerly belonging to Tall and Short.
“MOV?” he said, as he walked up the front stairs, “did you bake cookies? and who are the guys in green jumpsuits?”
“Let’s go for a quick walk,” I replied hastily, grabbing my keys before the Jumpsuit Guys could throw those away as well, “and I’ll explain everything.”
(“My Optimistic Void”)