This week, the morning talk shows started broadcasting stories about Spring cleaning. Oh, goodie, another task to add to the long list of “to do’s” that somehow never get “done.” Because if you are anything like me, your life has too much “stuff.” Yes, too many responsibilities and commitments, but here I am talking about literal stuff — material goods, thing-a-ma-bobs, tchotkes. Maybe, like me, you’ve blended households (several times). I don’t throw out my stuff. I don’t do this for various reasons: it holds fond memories for me, I think I’ll use it again someday, or, in ever-growing cases, I simply cannot find the stuff when I go looking for it.
I can remember possessing the thing I am looking for; often, I can even remember the occasion of buying it. But somewhere between what seems like yesterday (but is in fact ten or twenty years ago) and today, I have misplaced the thing.
This morning, I woke up with a crick in my neck. It made me think of a small neck pillow I bought sometime in the ‘90s. The pillow is filled with some sort of grain that allows it to conform to your neck and is supposed to be not only comfortable, but therapeutic. I lost this pillow once before and stumbled upon it a couple of years ago in a gym bag that I hadn’t used since 2001 (I have no idea where the gym bag is now either, which gives you an idea of how often I go to the gym). The pillow has since escaped from me yet again and refuses to announce its presence. I don’t know what I did to offend it, but apparently I ignored it long enough for it to go on a major strike.
The pillow’s partner in crime could also, ironically, be a panacea for my neck ache. Sometime in the late ‘80s, I purchased a heating pad with a Velcro strip intended to wrap around the neck to ease pain and relax the muscles. I know this heating pad lives in my house somewhere, but though I can recall all of its virtues, I cannot, for the life of me, recall where I last placed it. My longing for this item only increases its prestige and exacerbates the pain in my neck.
So why don’t I clean out the damn house, you ask? I have good intentions. Truly, I do. But then I open a closet. I stare at the perilously stacked piles of clothing, books, shoes, photographs, linens, blankets, electric fans, space heaters, and boxes filled with everything from old scrapbooks to gifts I don’t like but I’m certain someone will someday. I stare and an overwhelming fear jolts my being. It is just too… much… stuff. Slowly, carefully, almost reverently, I close the closet door. I don’t want to disturb the precariously balanced mountains. I just want the monstrous beast to rest.
Which is exactly what I decide to do, too. Maybe a nap will help relieve the pain in my neck. After all, I need my strength for the eventual confrontation with my mounds of stuff. But for now, I concede. For now, and once again, my stuff wins.