The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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June 14, 2014

MICHELE M. BENDER | Time to can clutter

— I’m “downsizing.” Sixteen years ago, this house was perfect for me. I gave parties. Friends came and stayed for weekends. Great insulation protected visitors from highway noise.

Yep, I had the time of my life.

But I’m 16 years older, and my friends are, too.  They no longer travel like they did. Parties wear us out by 10 p.m.

When I was a kid, even though I was a girl kid, I knew where seniors lived. I’d knock on doors seeking grass cutting and snow shoveling jobs. That breed of kid is apparently extinct.

I’m the one in peril. Treacherous junk threatens to swallow me alive. I feel like one of those wingnuts on “Hoarders.”

And more than half of it isn’t mine! Any day, I  expect one of those “Got Junk?” 18-wheelers to arrive.

My family moved in the sense of relocation, but as for possessions, we merged.

When Aunt Bessie from Jersey moved in with my grands, she brought four bedspreads, a few lamps, a table or two.

Then Aunt Ethel moved in with a sofa and color TV.

When Ethel and Uncle Ed moved here from Philly, they packed an Atlas moving van and nobody remembered what belonged to who anymore.

My mom bought a two-bedroom ranch, smaller than the house she had before. At that point, Hubby and I were purchasing a three-story, five-bedroom house because we planned to put his office there. We acquired all the furnishings Mom couldn’t bear to part with.

A commercial on TV urges you to shop at Pier 1 Imports and buy what speaks to you. Fortunately, when we had a store, nothing talked to me.

Thank God, because the stuff I have now won’t shut up: “Pack me!” “Dust me!” “Better take me … I have eight drawers!”

I could continue to live in a house … just not this house! I can’t cut grass, rake leaves or shovel snow anymore. I can’t afford astronomical trash collection fees, or mega-astronomical taxes.

I can’t afford to live in a museum.

Gee, middle class was fun!

Now, I’m off to a one-bedroom apartment. And I didn’t do this before … WHY??

In her book “Under the Tuscan Sun,” Frances Mayes writes: “The house protects the dreamer. Unthinkably good things can happen, even late in the game. And it’s always such an amazing, unanticipated surprise.”

Bit by bit, our lives tell stories that have never been told before. I should have learned that by now.

My story will have new locations, new characters, new adventures. And I won’t be far away, a mile and a half from here, just around the corner.

In the meantime, would any of you like to adopt a plastic yard flamingo?

Michele Mikesic Bender is a Johnstown resident and a member of  The Tribune-Democrat’s Readership Advisory Committee.

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