Janet Combs

Janet Combs

Cleaning up is repetitive — it just restores a counter, desk or room to its before-chaos state. But cleaning out invigorates the soul because it is a tangible, visible lightening, especially if some other person or organization can make good use of your unwanted stuff.

Over the years, my husband and I each accumulated a lot of stuff, which we then combined into one household crammed with ladders, garden tools, folding chairs, stools, armchairs, recliners, and rocking chairs. Come to think of it, primarily chairs.

We could probably host a neighborhood game of “Musical Chairs” on our street and invite 50 people without having to borrow a single chair. But no one plays that childhood party game anymore because someone is always “out” after each round, visible as the “loser,” and this is uncomfortable for today’s kinder, gentler parents.

The reality is, musical chairs probably prepared me for lots of life’s inevitable cruel moments, such as being left out of elementary school birthday parties or being the last one standing, unpicked for the neighborhood kickball team. But I digress, because the problems with today’s world do not stem from the extinction of the game Musical Chairs. They stem from the extinction of the game “Pin the tail on the donkey.” Now here’s a politically incorrect game, involving the tragic loss of a key body part of a much-maligned animal. This so-called game requires innocent children be vigorously spun around while blindfolded for the express amusement of the chaperoning adults who stand by, inert, while their own progeny stumble hilariously into a random tree or lawn chair, which brings me back to the central point of this column.

Our grown children didn’t really want our extra chairs, because they either have their own homes with ample chairs, or they live in apartments and need to be unencumbered by spare chairs when their leases are up so they can move efficiently. Also, they have copies of Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up displayed prominently; one book which will never be relegated to the “toss” pile in life’s endless anti-cluttering exercises.

I can’t blame them for not wanting our stuff. Both my husband and I took responsibility for a lot of our parents’ stuff when they downsized and moved to Florida, and we paid to have professional movers give this stuff a decades-long tour of our various basements up and down the coast of the United States, all because we were sentimental. We attached memories to our stuff; we feared if we got rid of it, we would lose the memories. Like the cherished memory of the time Aunt Hazel sat in that folding chair at Thanksgiving and lit the basket of rolls on fire as she passed them over the centerpiece candles to my father, who didn’t notice and passed it blazing to my mother, who, astonished, dashed into the kitchen and doused it in the sink.

The point is, I will never forget the flaming basket of rolls. I do not need a reminder of it in the form of a folding chair. And neither do we need duplicate step-stools, extension cords, or pitchforks. Right now, for example, we have an assortment of rakes. Six to be exact: long-handled, short-handled, heavy duty, lightweight, wide- or narrow-tined. When was the last time you needed a rake and had to spend 15 minutes trying to determine which one would be best for the particular task? This type of focused decision-making should only occur when you are purchasing a new rake.

Lucky for us, we have learned that Georgetown County has a number of extremely worthy nonprofits that are looking for rakes and tools and, yes, chairs. We have been making weekly drop-offs, which makes us feel fantastic. Please think of us next time you sit in one of our folding chairs and are treated to an unexpected and inexplicable vision of burning rolls.

Janet Combs is a freelance writer living in Georgetown County. Her column is published regularly in the Georgetown Times. Contact her at https://janetfrickecombs.wordpress.com.