The circle of stuff: How to pass junk to the next generation
One of the shocks of parenthood for me was how much stuff it generates.
First, there's all the baby equipment: cribs, strollers, giant packs of disposable diapers. Then, there's the paraphernalia that relatives buy for the child. Pretty soon you're knee-deep in receiving blankets, stuffed animals and bibs.
All through the school years, more stuff accumulates: sports equipment, school supplies, toys, electronic gadgets. It never lets up, even after the child grows up and goes to college. In fact, it gets worse, because now you've got a house full of 18 years worth of childhood possessions, most of which aren't going to the dorm. You have to buy new stuff for that.
But, wonder of wonders, I have seen the flow begin to reverse. It happens after college, when your offspring gets a job and an apartment. For the child, the apartment represents independence. For you, it represents an overflow reservoir. Finally, you have a place to send old dishes, dented pots and pans, crummy furniture and worn throw rugs.
True, you've still got the kid's baseball card collection, Mr. Potato Head set and report cards from kindergarten through 12th grade. (And I can hardly complain about this, given that I was nearly 50 before I got the last bit of high school memorabilia out of my own mother's house.) But in terms of volume, these things take up a lot less room than the surplus furnishings you can send to the new apartment.
My advice is to take advantage of this situation. Offload whatever you can before the child develops her own sense of style and informs you she doesn't care for your set of avocado green canisters from 1975.
Like many couples, my wife and I have stuff that's been outdated for two to three decades. We're looking at a narrow window of opportunity for pawning it off on the kids. I figure you have to catch them at the first apartment. Once they've begun climbing the economic ladder and saving some cash, forget it. When their incomes allow them some options, your coffee percolator from the Ford administration no longer seems desirable.
Down the road, though, I see that another outlet for stuff looms. While I would never urge my offspring to produce children of their own just so I can get rid of the crib that's been in the attic since 1992, I do sense an opportunity should a grandchild arrive.
I don't have just a crib. I have sleds.
I have a tricycle. I have handmade afghans that look like new because we couldn't bear to let our own children throw up on them. I have Boy Scout uniforms, Beanie Babies, Lincoln Logs.
I can fix the grandchild up with a tent, a Nintendo 64, and a slightly used Play-Doh extruder.
Perhaps I should have gotten rid of them long ago. On the other hand, there's a sense of satisfaction at the idea of keeping them in the family. Especially if the family doesn't live with me.
Joe Blundo's column, So to Speak, appears in the Life section of The Columbus Dispatch. It's a mix of humor, human interest and information. A collection of his columns has been published in the book Dancing Dads, Defective Peeps and Buckeye Misadventures. He lives in Worthington with his wife and two children.