How many do you need?

I’m helping my parents get ready for their garage sale this weekend.  This is a momentous occasion as they have lived in this house for over 25 years and in that time have had only one other garage sale I can recall.  On the other hand, I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve seen stuff being moved into their house.  They take a Honda Odyssey when they drive from NY to NC to visit my sister.  When I was younger, that van was filled with kids.  Now-a-days, they return with it full of antiques they found on their way back.  Mom has enough furniture to furnish a whole other house.  Which, I must admit, comes in handy as I don’t own much in the way of furniture.  People ask where my end tables came from and I say “the Gallo Family Collection,” as if it’s its own brand.  And my parents actually are thinking of building another house (though that was not on the horizon when most of the furniture was bought).  But I’m not entirely sure they’re building a new house because the property would make a great place for future grandkids to visit or simply to house their extra furniture.

Having helped mom work her way through some of the basement last week, she offered to help me work my way through belongings I still had in the barn.  I have just about everything I need where I live now, so didn’t have much trouble parting with the remnants in the barn.

Then mom and I started looking around the rest of the barn.  And here’s my question:  How many coolers does one man need?  We counted 11 on the second floor of the barn (yes, it has not one but two floors of stuff).  And these were just the coolers in the barn.  Mom and I both knew Dad had a few more in the garage.  And who knows how many elsewhere.

When I mentioned the plethora of coolers to my father, he said, “Yes – but these are really good coolers.”  As if their quality has anything to do with the number of them a person needs!  “That’s fine,” I said, “but how many do you really need?”  With a huff he started looking at them and pulled four off the towering pile.  “But you know – your brother might need one of these,” he told me.  “Ok – so that’s one.  You’re telling me you need the other six?”  His patience with me was waning, so I let it go, happy of my success at getting him to move four out of there.  “These are good coolers,” he said again as we brought them down the stairs.  “How much to you think these are worth?” he asked.  “No idea,” I said.  The only cooler I have is one dad let me borrow – a small one that fits on the shelf under my microwave.  And he’s never missed it.  “I’ll have to go to Kmart tomorrow and find out what these things cost, because they’re worth something.”  Apparently they are – worth so much that the man thought he should “invest” in 11 of them.

When I told a friend I was helping my parents prepare for their garage sale, she said, “Oh – good to do that now.  Otherwise you’ll be stuck doing it later.”  She meant when they passed on.  Which made me realize – they could easily live another 25 years.  Twenty-five more years worth of stuff?  I pushed that thought out of my mind remembering the best line I learned in Philosophy class:   Epictetus said, “Don’t worry over things you can’t control.”  It’s a good policy.

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