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Michiana Chronicles writers bring portraits of our life and times to the 88.1 WVPE airwaves every Friday at 7:45 am during Morning Edition and over the noon hour at 12:30 pm during Here and Now. Michiana Chronicles was first broadcast in October 2001. Contact the writers through their individual e-mails and thanks for listening!

Michiana Chronicles: Too Much Stuff

Paul Costello

“Hey, y'all, watch this!” When you hear someone yell that at a gathering, you can be pretty sure that an ambulance soon will be needed. Julia Reed wrote that and it’s that kind of Southern humor that makes me laugh aloud and look forward to more of her observations. While reading a recent issue of Garden and Gun magazine—OK, calm yourself, that is a real magazine and probably is not at all what you imagine—there was an article, as there often is, by Julia Reed. Julia originally is from the Mississippi Delta and after years away, has built a house there and moved back to her roots.

In her recent Garden and Gun offering, she shows us the new house that she has built on land that has belonged to her family for years down in the Delta. It’s a relatively smallish house, about 1500 square feet, she says, and when you first look at the photos, you think, “Girl, you sure gotta’ a lotta’ stuff!” Make no mistake, it’s good stuff: books and dishes—delights to my heart—among the most prominent. “No house or apartment is complete without a ton of books,” she once said. And chairs: such a lot of chairs! Reminded me of when my sister moved and the mover said to her in that Southern way, “Lady, you sure got a lotta’ “cheers,” She replied that she knew a lot of people and wanted them to have a place to sit when they visited her. Based on her writings, including books with recipes as well as adventures, guess that it’s the same with Julia.

During this time of sadness and austerity, it seems good to think on something a little lighter, so I bring up this topic of “stuff.” If one must be socially distanced, i.e. home incarcerated, isn’t it a comfort to look around and see meaningful things? Maybe it won’t bring world peace or social justice, but it might produce a momentary satisfaction. A home where one looks around and anywhere the eye falls, there is something interesting, is mighty appealing. And if there is a story behind those collections, that’s even better!

On the side of lightness, have you noticed when looking at photos of houses that are on the market that the “staged” décor is somewhat sparse? Word has it millennials and younger admire a scant style for home décor, so that’s what often is depicted. Guess that it’s simple to maintain and to move, but it’s not my style. What’s the point of having a lifetime of carefully curated (to employ a slightly pretentious and currently overused word) “stuff,” if you just turn around and offload it? And, it’s not only things acquired through gifting and travel, but also things passed along through family bequest. Each time you use or see those things, you think of the adventure or gifter: not a bad experience.

What to keep and what to jettison is a lifelong series of choices that occasionally backfires. Keep too much and you risk turning up on that television show, “Hoarders.” Get rid of something that you’ve needlessly kept for 20 years and next week you’ll need it. Like so much in life, finding the line is the trick. There’s the story that someone once asked Howard Hughes how much it takes to be happy and his response was “Just a little more.” Ahh, but is that “little more” the tipping point? Apparently he wasn’t too happy, but would less have made him happier?

The Washington-state-spawned singer/songwriter, Kat Eggleston, has a bouncy little tune, “Too Much Shit in My Purse,” that bemoans the perils of dragging excess through life. But, if you listen through to the end, all of that excess proves to be a boon. In my view, it worked the same for Julia Reed. Just sayin’.

Music: "Too Much Shit In My Purse" by Kat Eggleston

Jeanette Saddler Taylor lives and writes in South Bend where she is retired, but is active in several community organizations.