Active Rain March 17, 2010

With Apologies to George Carlin

This is one of those half-written thoughts that I’ve had since 1996 when I entered the real estate industry, walked through the homes of other folks, and began to witness, first hand, how people live other than myself. Specifically, the, shall we say, storage of belongings. What they do with their stuff, and what stuff they deem worth keeping around, intrigues me. 

Some background: my parents were children of the Depression and hated waste. So they became hoard- um, savers. I have many memories of walking through a living room with piles of books, periodicals and newspapers (which they read, at least) next to chairs into the kitchen where I would find a cookie tin with an inviting label. Since my brother was diabetic, this was extraordinary. I’d pounce on it and open it in half a breath only to find it filled with plastic spoons. Bummer. Somewhere around the age of 9 I asked my mother why we had so many plastic spoons. I don’t recall the exact answer but suffice to say I was genetically predisposed to being a BS artist. 

If you opened our hutch drawers they would have lots of STUFF in them: pens, papers, paperclips, screwdrivers, old glasses with broken lenses, checkbooks from closed bank accounts, coupons, soup labels from an old fund raiser, rosary beads, a broken watch, keys from a car we no longer owned, rubber bands, a stethoscope (my mom was a nurse), and, somewhere at the bottom, a local phone book.

The kitchen cupboard was another adventure in sundries, with canned goods that were there when I was 5 and still dear friends when I was in my 30’s. I recall one particular bottle of glucose stuff (“Glucola”) in the refrigerator meant for my brother in case of an insulin reaction that survived 3 icebox migrations that must have been brandy by the time we gave it back to God.  

Fast forward to 1996 and I am in my first month of showing homes to buyers. We are in a kitchen and I get a page (yes, I had a pager back then), and I opened a drawer to get a pen.

Phil's Desk Drawer


There, in their drawer, was a pen.

And a pad.

And nothing else. Nothing. In their drawer.  What kind if sick people are these owners? A closer look at their food pantry yielded nothing but stuff ready to eat. No canned beets. No Rice-a-Roni from 1974. Their spice rack was simply spices. Their silverware drawer had just silverware- and you could see the bottom of the drawer. It was wood. I knew this intellectually, but there was proof. There was no puss ‘n boots potholder to obscure the view. 

1000 kitchens and closets later, I am still awed at people with empty attics, organized closets with nothing but clothes that they wear, and garages with just cars in them. Our garage had a car once. The rest of my youth it looked like a workshop of a guy who graduated at the bottom of the class at mad scientist school. My father was no Frankenstein. I think he liked decoupage. The hard way.  

Of course, I also walk through homes of people I must be related to somehow. I was once in a home with more cats than she’d admit. Dozens. Yet it is the clean, organized people I view with a mix of envy and fear. I envy the simplicity. I fear what part of me I’d have to amputate to be that way. The reprogramming it would take to be that clean and organized scares me. I am proud of one thing I have done mostly on my own with help from my very organized (and tolerant) wife: we have very few plastic spoons. 

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