Can I trust my stuff?

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So my daughter's in the process of moving to the West Coast, and I'm a little put out. Of course we'll miss her but we're used to that by now, and while California is farther away than Lake Atitlan in Guatemala, her last outpost, it's easier to get to.

But her departure is also disappointing for another reason. I was really counting on her to relieve me of household goods that have been reproducing in cupboards and boxes, waiting for her to take them.

Now that probably won't happen. It's a little nuts to move heavy furniture, dishes, pots and pans 2,200 miles across the country when you can get them at house sales once you've arrived.

Who wants to drive a rented van for 38 hours instead of hopping a plane with a duffle bag? Why pay the heavy freight of shipping when you can start from scratch?

Granted, the move wouldn't be "Out of Africa," in which Karen Blixen (Meryl Streep) rides across Kenya on a train bearing all the trappings of European civilization. But to many a 23-year-old, the idea of starting out spare and slowly accumulating one's own mountain of stuff has to look pretty good.

I did it at that age. Moved into an apartment with my mattress, dresser and an old work table from my folks' basement. Everything else was obtained as needed, to be jettisoned in subsequent relocations or upgrades. Except the dresser, which I still have.

I should point out here that much of what I'd hoped to unload on my daughter came from my own mother. Every time she moved, I did what daughters are supposed to do and absorbed some of the overflow. Certain things I just couldn't part with even though I had no use for them, figuring they'd eventually go to my offspring. Whatever she didn't want I could get rid of with a clear conscience.

I wasn't counting on her not wanting ANY of it.

So now I guess I'll be the one having the house sale. Young people who've moved here leaving their parents' stuff behind can snag mine instead, and it will all balance out.

I'm definitely in a de-accessioning mood right now. It always happens at canoe trip time, when I set off on a house-wide hunt for my gear and wind up in an archaelogical dig, excavating the accumulation of 22 years in the same house.

Off I go in search of dry bags, tent, sleeping bag and pad, mess kit, utensils, collapsible water bottle, tarps, rope, Swiss Army knife, cup hanger for keeping the beer can off the canoe floor so it won't be kicked over within 10 seconds of opening, hard plastic wine glass with screw-off stem that nests neatly in the bowl, waterproof matches ...

This stuff is never where I expect it to be from year to year. I swear I always put it in the same place, but it migrates under its own power to the most unlikely hideaways. Usually it shows up in the last place I look -- not the place where I stop looking because I've found it, but literally the last unsearched cranny in existence -- and sometimes I never find it at all.

My beat-up cook pot, for example, disappeared years ago and never resurfaced. I tell the rest of the group that it was so disgusting I had to pitch it, but the truth is that it just evaporated, poof. Now the big red cooler is missing. How can something so bright and bulky just vanish? It's not as if it can shrink into the tool drawer.

I expect this kind of evasive action from bungee cords. They are known to slither into the woods at night when you're poking at the fire, so you have to get new ones every season anyway.

But a bright yellow waterproof stuff sack should not be so mobile. It should stay where it's put, in the canoe-gear closet, and wait patiently to be exhumed. Unless, perhaps, it actually stayed perfectly still, and it was the closet that wandered off. In any case, I swear that when I finally found Big Yellow last night crumpled under some old suitcases, it snarled at me like a strange dog.

Anyway, with most of my stuff now in hand, I have taken preemptive action. In my car trunk are three large plastic bins with lids, just purchased from a big-box store. They have a nice green tint but are otherwise see-through so that I'll know what's in them.

When I come back from this year's foray down the Allegheny River (Franklin to Emlenton), everything will be cleaned, dried and placed in the bins. In the basement. With a big sign reading CANOE GEAR tacked to the wall, and a big arrow pointing to the stack.

If it's not there next year at this time, I'll know my house and its contents have been conspiring against me for decades and it's time to move. Clear out everything down to the essentials and start fresh somewhere else. I hear California's nice.


Sally Kalson is a columnist for the Post-Gazette (, 412-263-1610).


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