Posted by: nickgerlich | November 15, 2007

Let’s Get Trashed

Eighteen years ago today my wife and I moved into our house. When we surveyed the living room with our modest possessions, we declared forthrightly: “Man, we will never be able to fill this house.”

Yeah, right.

When we moved here from Indiana earlier that summer, all of our belongings fit into a North American Van Lines semi-trailer…along with two other families’ stuff. I think if we were to move now, we would need a fleet of those trucks.

It’s amazing how much junk you can accumulate in 18 years. Right now I am making trash runs just about every day, both at home and at the office. For those of you who haven’t heard, they’re closing down the Classroom Center next month for a major remodeling project, and we have to move into the Old Fine Arts Building for two years or so. And I do not want to have this stuff following me around.

So I have been stacking unwanted books in the hallway, and filling both the yellow and maroon trash containers every day with the paperwork of a career half spent.

TrashOn the home front, our humble abode is mired in the 1980s. Make that 1980. And it shows. So, we’re going to roll up our sleeves and try to fast-forward the place to the 21st century.

But all this trash is driving me nuts. Why is it that we accumulate so much stuff? Why is it that our house no longer looks big, but could stand to have the walls extended a few feet in either direction?

While wrestling with this, I observed the self-coined law in effect, Gerlich’s Law of Stuff, which posits that the cubic footage of a person’s belongings will meet or exceed his or her available space. (Feel free to remove my name and add yours. Impress people at your next cocktail party by quoting your own “law.”)

How bad is the situation? Pretty bad. According to the Self Storage Association (wow…I didn’t know they even had a group), there were 51,500 primary self-storage facilities in the US at the end of 2006, and that nearly half of those had been built since 2000. Roughly one in 10 USAmerican families relies on these rented spaces to store the junk that won’t fit in their garage, closets, or attic.

Sounds like a perfect example of some insightful marketers “solving” an emerging consumer behavior “problem,” doesn’t it? First they convinced us to buy all this…um, crap, and then they help us figure out where to put it. Gee, thanks.

No, I’m having way too much fun now getting rid of things. I’m downsizing at the family level. And it has been good for my soul to just let go.

A couple of days ago, I found the Old Fine Arts Building unlocked. So I entered and gave myself a tour. I found where my temporary office will be located, in Room 220. I surveyed the room. Sure, the carpet and decor are horribly dated, but it’ll work.

Besides, that room just looks so big. I don’t know how I could ever fill it.

Dr “To The Dump, To The Dump” Gerlich


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