Can we talk? As your friend, I thought it would be a good thing to bring this to your attention. You have a problem. A problem that’s only going to get worse. Hey dear, another Amazon package arrived while you were at the mall. 

Your addiction is like every other person I know. It’s terrible when you see the problem in others and can’t fix it. Some of you will recall the standup comedian George Carlin. He did an entire monologue on ‘stuff.’ He did five minutes on how we all have too much stuff. For those too young to remember, it doesn’t matter. None of you paid any attention anyway. If you are old, like me, you’ll remember the Mary Tyler Moore show. Mary was having a housewarming party in one of the first episodes to celebrate her new apartment in Minneapolis. As more and more guests arrive, Mary gets increasingly worried. Finally, she realizes she has only three glasses in her apartment. In the next scene, Ed Asner, her new boss, can be seen eating a jar of grape jelly. As more guests arrive, Ed says – “I don’t think I can eat that much jelly.” Let’s start in the kitchen.

We once carried a complete dishware set for twelve across the country in our little van to give to Lillian’s aunt. The set was beautiful, with an elegant floral pattern. Somehow, those pot-roast and mashed potato dinners were, dare I say, stylish. But for some reason, the handsome china needed to be replaced. Now, all our china is white. The pot roast dinners now seem bland. Salt needs more salt. But you can’t see the salt when you shake it because the plates are white. Lillian’s aunt now has a stylish set of china, service for twenty-eight. She couldn’t stop at twenty-four. What if a plate got chipped? Our fine china is packed away. Our fine dishware from Lennox serves twenty-four. We’ve had it boxed up for thirty years. We’re saving it for our good guests. I’ve come to realize we don’t have any good guest friends. Come over. You’ll be eating on ho-hum white plates from Pier One. There was a point in our lives when we owned seven couches. I had seven sleeping alternatives if things got a little heated in the old homestead. We also had five cars. 

Our son and daughter inherited the collecting stuff gene from their mother. When we moved from the East Coast to California, we left a lot of our stuff with Jason and Mary. They now have seven couches. Mary is into crafts. Jason is into woodworking. They’ve entirely separate areas in their home dedicated to making more stuff. Last year while we were visiting, there was a traffic jam of Amazon delivery trucks trying to bring them more things. Jason never met a power tool he didn’t like. He’s got so many they needed to add another 50-amp breaker. We left so much of our stuff with Jason and Mary; I call their house Gary’s East Coast Museum. Lillian got the woodworking bug as well. She recently took a class from a fancy woodworking store. She learned how to make a box. The box turned out beautiful. She’s hooked. She estimated it to be around six thousand dollars to buy all the tools necessary to build that little box. I’m now looking into a home equity line of credit. A line of credit is a responsible way to acquire more stuff. My brother-in-law got the bug as well. He spent the six-thousand bucks. I guess I’ll be buying him dinner from now on. 

In our spare bedroom are twelve boxes of old photographs and albums. You remember the land before digital. My brother-in-law gave me a really cool scanner. So far, I’ve managed to scan four pictures. At this rate, the Incas will return before I’m done. This writing hobby of mine has cost me about seventy-five books on how to be a better writer. I haven’t opened any of them. But you knew that already. 

This collecting stuff bug is not confined to my family. You all have it too. Isn’t capitalism grand? We had infected friends galore when we lived on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. A neighbor just celebrated his ninety-second birthday, so he’s not into that digital stuff. His LP collection rivals the Smithsonian. He reads the Washington Post and the NY Times daily, the old-fashioned way, on paper. He never throws any of the old editions away. This drives his lovely bride nuts. If you leaf through the stack of papers on their coffee table, you’d learn we actually did win World War II. Our neighbor on the other side bought a 1901 manor house previously used as a bed and breakfast. The place has twelve bedrooms. I bet he’s got more than seven couches. When a single lady friend moved to Rock Hall, she looked for a house with a barn. The building could house four cars and a boat. Instead, she set up a woodshop. The old barn is jam-packed with woodworking machines. Lisa retired after thirty years as a restoration archeologist for the National Park Service. How cool is that? Lisa has a lot of really old stuff.

Most of the folks who relocate to Rock Hall are retired or reaching the end of their working years. This means everyone takes loads of medicine. The town is only a mile square, with only 1327 people. The once adequate sewer plant is now overflowing with old people’s prescriptions in their water. Who among you has not hoarded a few extra pain pills? Personally, I don’t take vitamins. Just by drinking the water, I’m as healthy as can be. My blood pressure is 120/70, and I have no ‘bad’ cholesterol. One week, when so many little blue pills were dumped down the drain, the whole complexion of the town changed. At the weekly dinner at the Rock Hall Yacht Club, all the men wore baggy pants, and the women sported their happy faces. 

Let’s end in the garage. I’ve always loved my garage. When we had a sailboat, I grew tired of dragging tools to the boat every weekend. So, I bought two complete sets of hand tools. Now, no boat, but I do have seventy-two screwdrivers. I considered separating them, standard vs. Phillips, but that would be excessive. In my garage in Rock Hall, I had a box of hammers. There were your usual ball peen and claw of various sizes—a few sledgehammers and, of course, two mallets. The mallet is an exceedingly valuable tool. If you are fortunate enough to visit Haines, Alaska, you can see the world-famous hammer museum. This guy collected hammers for sixty-plus years. Hammers from all over the world. Dental and surgical hammers, as well as jewelers’ hammers. Who knew there were so many hammers?

Unlike you, I’m not addicted to getting more stuff. Unlike you, I can quit at any time. I’m currently in a twelve-step program. To help with your addiction, I’ll be your sponsor. You all have some exceedingly lovely stuff. Just mail it to me. I’ll care for it as if it were my own. You can visit your stuff whenever you want.

Hello, my name is Gary


  1. I love this and your stuff. The big difference between your stuff and ours is that you know where all your stuff is!!!


  2. Very timely! Mary, her dad, and I just went to a flea market. Almost made it out without buying anything. almost.


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