Thursday, March 19, 2015

Stuff - Clear out the clutter from her attic and keep the relationship


Copyright Tom Blake 2015

Holding on to a good mate, keep your clutter out of her attic

Last year, we mentioned comedian George Carlin’s You tube video about “Stuff.” It’s about all of the unnecessary stuff we hoard in our lives and the need to get rid of it. At the end of today’s newsletter, there is a link to his performance. It’s humorous.

When that newsletter ran, I did not anticipate that it would apply to me within the next few months.

Fourteen years ago, I moved into my girlfriend Greta’s home. I said to her, “I have written 973 newspaper columns and two books, I have a lot of stuff to store.”

She said, “Why do you need to keep all of that stuff?”

I said, “When I quote people in a column or a book, I need back up proof that they gave me permission to use the information. That can entail a lot of paperwork.”

Greta said, “I have an attic in the garage; we can put your stuff there.”

Over the years, the amount of stuff stored in her garage grew. I wrote a memoir in 2006 titled, “Prime Rib and Boxcars. Whatever Happened to Victoria Station?” That created another eight boxes of stuff. And in 2009, I published another book, “How 50 Couples Found Love After 50.” Another four boxes of stuff. Not to mention the cases and cases of unsold books that were stored.

Then there was all of the stuff I moved to the attic from my mom’s home when Mom passed. It is amazing what we accumulate in our lives. Boxes and boxes of stuff no one else will ever want.

Oh, when we traveled, we kept files on all of the places we’d been. More stuff to store.

Then, there were another 2,114 columns. Plus, there were records from my home that I had rented out, while living in her home. Also, there were some records from my Dana Point, California, deli—although I had a storage unit at the deli that held most of those records.

The attic in Greta’s garage was like the old coffee company, “Chock Full of Nuts.” Her attic was chock full of stuff (my stuff).

When you own a corporation, you are required to keep seven years of records, in case Uncle Sam or Governor Brown decides to audit you. Egad, that boils down to two or three boxes of records for each month. That’s at least 24 boxes per year, times seven, or about 168 boxes of deli corporate stuff that’s got to be stored somewhere. We had a deli storeroom.

On January 30 this year, I sold the deli; I had to move those 168 boxes from the deli storeroom to somewhere. Where? My sweetie’s garage floor (remember, the attic was chocked full), leaving no room to park a car. My stuff just wouldn’t fit into my garage at my home, where we now live.

And then my wonderful, kind, gracious, partner of 17 years humbly said, “I love you. But, we need the garage stuff moved because we have vacation renters coming to stay in the house and they need to park their car in the garage.”

What she meant was, “In other words, move your stuff to somewhere else. Now.”

Egad again, what to do?

My CPA said, “Rent a storage unit for your deli records. It’s a tax write off.”

So, that’s what I did. I found a place called Price Self Storage in San Juan Capistrano. Their logo looked like the old Price Club logo. That’s because the owner was the Price Club Chief Financial Officer before it became Costco. It’s amazing the trivia we uncover when we venture beyond our boundaries.

The space I rented is seven feet by ten feet. I have spent four days packaging and moving the deli stuff and some of my stuff from Greta’s garage to the storage unit. All the boxes are marked and dated.

I actually had fun doing this.

When Greta saw her garage cleared out, she gave me a big hug. By clearing out my stuff from her home, I remained in good standing in our relationship.

Of course, while sorting through my stuff, I started throwing stuff away. I filled four 50-gallon trash containers. If there is a lesson to learn from this move, it’s to start sorting the stuff you’ve accumulated in attics and garages now--while you’re still capable of doing so. Don’t leave the task for your kids and grandkids. It can be a monumental, emotional task. You find stuff that was significant in your life. That happened numerous times.

For example, I found an autograph on a 3 x 5-inch card from a football player named Ron Kramer who was an All-American at the University of Michigan and a tight end for the Green Bay Packers. I went to his wedding in Jackson, Michigan, in 1958.

I found two photos from 1975. The first is of Johnny Cash, holding his son John Carter, along with Johnny’s wife June, and me.

The second photo is of June Carter Cash and me.

I found a written authorization from Johnny to use his quote on the back of my first book, “Middle Aged and Dating Again.” It was signed, “In the 20 years I have known Tom Blake, he has become an authority on dating and relationships.” The authorization is dated August, 26, 1996.

Going through your old stuff can be heart-wrenching and rewarding. It’s amazing what you will find—stuff about your parents and events that happened to you years before. Stuff you’ve forgotten, stuff you just can’t toss out.

I found a hand-written letter, written by my mom on June 17, 1946, to my dad, when he went to France to help post World War II Europe get back on its manufacturing feet after the war.  

But best of all, I am still in good standing with the woman of my life of 17 years; I got the stuff out of her garage.

Clear out your clutter. It may save your relationship. And you will be doing your heirs a huge favor. And you never know what precious stuff you might find.

Link to George Carlin’s video on stuff:

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