Tag Archives: craigslist

postcards from the edge, of reason

before

I’ve been considering selling my postcard collection on Craigslist for some time now, but the thought that some personal information might get misused has always interrupted my plan. I then offered the collection to a friend who has an affinity for postcards (and probably hoarding) and she smartly declined.

I finally tackled the box a few days ago, sorting the cards into four categories: received from someone, free cards, art cards, and cards from places I’ve been. I started collecting when I was about 15 years old and stopped not too long ago. I still have a habit of visiting art exhibits and picking one or two cards of the pieces that most affected me. As I was sorting, I fairly easily tossed the “free-card” pile with the exception of two or three cards I have often displayed in my office over the past 15 years. What surprised me most about the “places I’ve been pile,” though, was the careful chronicling of my travels. Places I have long since forgotten were documented there in pictures. Some of the most generic images (i.e. “Arizona Coyote”), I tossed willingly into the recycle bin, but I ended up keeping the majority. I stumbled across a few duplicates from Paris, and yet I couldn’t let go of the second copies. I feel compelled to find them a home.

Finally, I went through some of the “received” cards and was a bit dumbfounded. Some were cards that I had written home, but many were from people I no longer remember. I had a card, for example, from someone named Anastassia, and I have no recollection of ever meeting this person. Nonetheless, the card looked vaguely familiar. It somehow remains in the “keep” pile.

after

In the end, because I took the time to confront the memories in the card pile, I wasn’t able to let go of the bulk. I took too much pleasure in seeing my travels plainly documented in such a compact space. I do not have all the other souvenirs, because those did go onto Craigslist. Instead, I keep a condensed box of postcards without knowing if I’ll ever look inside it again.

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satisfied hoarders

Perhaps a paradoxical title, as part of the compulsion to hoard must be a dissatisfaction one attempts to fill, but the feedback I’ve received from the “lovely hoarders” of craigslist has been overwhelmingly positive. My Ernest Hemingway lookalike hoarder will buy a laptop bag from me tomorrow, and I’ve begun offering a few former buyers some free items they might enjoy.

What surprises me (many things surprise me lately) is that I somehow had already forgotten Merl, even though he had made such an impression on me when I met him a couple of months ago. I exchanged numerous emails with him last night and it wasn’t until he described himself as an old guy with a camo boonie hat that I remembered we had already met. When I told him I remembered him he replied, “It was the ‘hairy old guy’ description that reminded you, wasn’t it.”

Well, no … it was the camo boonie and how afraid I was to meet him. And now it all seems normal. That memory was integrated seamlessly into my past, forgotten.

Every time I sell or give an item now, I automatically imagine the hoard in that person’s home. This is especially true for characters like Merl, or Deb, or Rose, or even Anushka, who have repeatedly contacted me for items. I have since learned that some of them likely resell on Ebay for profit what I’m selling so cheap here in town, but they must amass piles, whether it stays with them or is constantly renewed.

Today as I drove to meet someone who wanted to buy an item I had held on to for far too long, the mail carrier brought me another box of things I bought from the Internet. I felt dismayed with myself, even though I’m convinced we need those clothes for our trip (and they were cheap). One thing out the door, six things in: it’s unsustainable. Enough now – time to find another way to satisfy the need for things.

the big dump

As you (or at least I) can see, pictured left, order is slowly being made out of the mountains of mess I’ve been sorting for the past three months. Sales on craigslist are dwindling, all of our unwanted clothes have been sold and donated, and today we took numerous boxes to a local charity thrift shop. One of my graduate students also helped by taking all kinds of unwanted CDs, books, and dishrags. What remains now are primarily things that either matter to me, and I would like to keep, or things for which I have a clear plan (craigslist, a family member, and so on). I am becoming more merciless when looking at what’s left and the struggle to toss, recycle, donate or sell, is waning.

I suppose this is the moment when I should feel proud, resolved, or accomplished; yet, I still feel a bit sick in the pit of my stomach. I feel spent and almost defeated. More remains to be tackled, but perhaps what’s weighing on me at this moment is something bigger than all of that.

the hoard lives here

For the past week I’ve been thinking I need to make a trip “home” to visit my dad and my step-mother. A sort of dread fills me when I think of it – all the piles, closed rooms, filled closets, overflowing storage spaces that are lurking there. Because I am not attached to their possessions, I feel an overwhelming urge to strip the walls and carpet in that house and to give them a (probably very unwanted) gift of remodeling. I feel I need to confront the hoards of my past if I’m ever going to understand where I came from. I also want to photograph the mass because at this point I don’t know if it’s become larger in my mind than it ever actually was, or if, in fact, that hoard is colossal. It fills me with dread, sadness, and nausea. I know bits of my own past are still lurking there – much sadness and relief, simple and complex memories are woven into that run down house.

christmas strikes

As we try to pare down our things, Christmas strikes. Our parents were rather restrained this year, preferring to give us cash over objects, but we still ended up with a pile of relatively useless things. I laughed when we opened more Chicago Cutlery, as that was one of the first items I successfully sold on craigslist. If nothing else, at least I used and successfully disposed of several bows and gift bags that had been lingering in our storage.

I was, for me, extremely restrained this year. Full aware that we can’t take much with us when we move, I had to opt for tiny toys for our daughter. For D. and me, our gifts centered around delicious food and electronics needed for our trip and life thereafter.

But for the last few weeks, every online shopping stop and visit to Target were accompanied by a sort of tug, holding me back, reminding me of how big a suitcase is. How do you choose what to gift within those bounds, all while knowing that in a few months we will have an empty home? I cannot lie: that new home needing to be outfitted with the basics (like cutlery) is beckoning me.

 

breakdown

Yesterday I had a mini-breakdown induced by … stuff, of course. The mountains of stuff surrounding me in my workspace right now are getting to me, but it was more than that. Yesterday, D. starting asking me about throwing out this or that piece, sell, keep or toss? I felt irrationally anxious and later isolated and sad. I know this is part hormone, part cabin-fever, and then part pure anxiety at the letting go of items that weigh on me. Each time another person from craigslist walks away with our things, I feel a little elated. But I only have to swivel my chair around for a panoramic view of accumulated crap. As each of the cupboards and closets empty, the sorted remnants collect here next to me.

Yesterday I declared, I’ve had enough. I’m tired of selling $3 items on craigslist. I’ve earned enough money for my efforts, in my opinion, and I’m ready to go back to giving away what’s left. That’s what we’ve done for years, but even giving away to needy graduate students was sometimes a difficult task. Had I sold that Pier 1 armchair on craigslist rather than holding it in my garage for two people who said they wanted it but never took it, the third one wouldn’t have gotten it in spider-infested condition (I’m still sorry, M.).

So the collected things around me, listed or not, are being prepared for donation to a charity thrift shop in town. I’m eager to remove this clutter to see what emotion that will induce.

cataloging

Part of the downfall of craigslist for me is that the weeding out simultaneously creates a new type of collection. To properly list and successfully sell items, I photograph them. And now my hard drive is filling with images of the items that no longer clutter the house. A few of the images were deleted with ease, but I have duplicates. A new compulsion to catalogue what leaves the house tugs at me gently, rationalizing itself as beautiful.

cleaning out

The two days in this week have felt like a year in terms of the stuff I have sorted. Over the weekend I went through a manic flurry of posting items on craigslist and unloaded all of my remaining wedding crystal today. Three people from craigslist have sent me thank you notes in the past week. That seemed odd at first, but the one I received just now really got to me.

just unpacked the crystal….it is beautiful! Thank you very much.  I appreciate the wisdom of a woman that knows when to hold onto things and when to let them go.  I remember when my children were young and I was thinking how much better off I’d be if my wedding crystal & china were plastic!  Anyway, thank you.  Enjoy your travels.

I’m genuinely pleased that someone else will enjoy what has been taking up space on a shelf for the past five years. We have consistently used the champagne glasses, but we have others. Letting go of those items feels a bit like cleaning out a wound to let it heal properly. It’s a painful confrontation met with relief. Although melancholy while packing up the stemware, I feel lighter without it.

compulsion to sell

Our almost 2-year-old has a new favorite activity: throwing things in the trashcan. She especially enjoys stripping the “clothes” off of her crayons and throwing the paper away.

The desire to whittle away at piles of stuff is new to me, but the compulsion to eliminate grows. On Monday when it was time to start writing, I was overcome for the first time with the deep urge to sell something on craigslist. I felt it had been too many days since I’d last let go of my past.

A man who owns a thriftstore in a nearby town contacted me about a jewelry box I had listed. He asked me to bring any other collectibles, especially jewelry, but he was also interested in a number of items I do not own such as guns and knives. I scurried around the house grabbing objects without reflecting on them. For $20 Mike bought a big chunk of jewelry, some of it possibly valuable jade, lapis, silver and gold pieces, as well as a small box given to me by a friend when we were about 12 years old. The box was the only item to which I attached any meaning (significant given my first wedding band was in the lot), even though that friend is only a vague connection on facebook today. While that piece stirred the most hesitation in me, I had not thought of it again until writing this today. I have it captured on film. Its memory is enough.

 

should I be afraid?

I’m either selling my Palm TX today or I’m getting kidnapped by “Merl” from craigslist who sent me this message so I know how to recognize him:
“See you then. I will be driving an old Maroon, Ford van, with a back window missing the glass. It has a piece of particle board in it. I will be wearing a camo booney hat and have a beard. Thanks.”

Merl has also described himself as “old and strange” with heart problems, diabetes, and night vision issues. Hopefully I can outrun him, or just hide in the dark if necessary.

Hurray for getting rid of stuff, but call for help if you don’t hear back from me.

P.S. If you Google image search “camo boonie hat beard” a picture of Johnny Depp comes up. There may be hope for Merl yet.

deb’s chickens

One of my new small joys is meeting the people from craigslist who actually want to buy things from our box of “junk” that D. told me I should throw out. Today I met “Deb” in the K-Mart parking lot, which was an experience all its own. Deb was waiting patiently in her car near the entrance to the parking lot while I was patiently waiting near the entrance to the store. Who can be blamed for such an innocent difference of interpreting “entrance”?

As I handed over the signed and dated glass chicken that had been given to D. for speaking to chicken farmers, Deb handed me an envelope with $3 in it and joyfully proclaimed, “I collect chickens!” 

“Cool!” I said enthusiastically as I turned back towards my car, imagining her house full to the brim of chickens. I happen to remember that Deb contacted me about some wooden ducks for sale earlier in the summer, but someone else had beaten her to it.

But what’s this collecting all about? Where does it go and what does it do for us? I used to collect fountain pens. I “restored” one of them today and tried to write a letter of recommendation with this once cherished instrument. It squeaked and dragged. It did not at all reconnect me to Leïla Sebbar who also expressed love for her Parker fountain pen. Nope, mine’s going up on craigslist, probably alongside my turtle collection.