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Life as performance art

Life as performance art


By Fr. G. Corwin Stoppel

A friend startled me when he said his big New Year’s resolution was to do a thorough Death Cleaning of his house, workshop and garage.

We’re both at an age where the first section we check in a university alumni magazine is the obituaries, hoping not to find names of anyone we know.

Naturally, I asked about his health, thinking this was a gentle way of sliding into impending bad news he wanted me to hear.

The good news is he didn’t have any bad medical news. No calendar full of doctor appointments, no “organ recital” about vital components that aren’t functioning as they should be. In short, a clean bill of health — so clean that he still says, “Now, if anything should happen to me …”

Over the years, my friend explained, he’d collected too much inventory. Before he either downsized and moved on to Happy Vale Nursing Home or fell off his perch, he wanted to go through it and get rid of things he no longer needed.

There was no point in holding on to old books and magazines he had already read, so he was going to clear them off. There were clothes in the closet he hadn’t worn in years and didn’t like in the first place, but he’d kept them because they’d been gifts. Jars of bent nails he’d never straightened and would never use …

He’d gotten a jumpstart on January by cleaning out the bathroom cabinet drawers, the medicine cabinet and collect-all storage under the vanity.

To his surprise, he found about a year’s supply of toothpaste and bars of soap because he’d buy a few extras when they were on sale and stash them away, then forget about them,

He had enough plastic shampoo bottles from hotels to see him through to the Fourth of July. There were nine pocket combs and complimentary toothbrushes from every time he’d gone to the dentist, still in their packets because the older ones were still serviceable.

“I’ll spend a lot less money next year and not leave a big mess for someone to clean up,” he explained.

While we were talking I had visions of an industrial-sized dumpster worth of stuff that I wouldn’t miss once it was gone. Either I do it, I thought, or I’m leaving a real challenge for someone else, and that isn’t fair.

I’m not sure I want to rush headlong into this Death Cleaning business. Maybe my resolution should be to think about it, reflect and contemplate. Next year I can get on with the dunging out.

After all, I might need those two spare sets of vice grips and tire iron for the Olds 98 I got rid of 20 years ago. You never know, they might start making them again ….