Patricia Marx on "Getting Rid of Almost Everything"
The last two years have been good for at least one pastime: confronting every single possession in your house. After you've done the Marie Kondo drill, where does unwanted stuff go?
Illustration: The New Yorker
Patricia Marx' "A Guide to Getting Rid of Almost Everything" (The New Yorker, February 28, 2022) serves up a Dagwood-sized reality sandwich. Marx' march through her purge is not as open-handed and felicitous as Ann Patchett's experience in the same magazine, ("How to Practice"), but it is, I'll bet, more common.
Marx tried to sell, among other possessions, several rolls of Trump toilet paper and "clothes that looked better on my couch than on me". She assesses the performance of eBay and Craigslist; local consignment shops; garage-sale sites. She consults experts for how to market her items. Ultimately, she says, "You'd probably make more money babysitting." And then there are the no-shows, the hagglers, and the fact that a number of online sites may be selling your data.
Some sources are NYC-centric, but others, like Facebook Marketplace—which has a Free Stuff section—are accessible to all.
The psychological distance between Ann Patchett and Patricia Marx is antipodean. Patchett, a Buddhist, has so little attachment disorder that she gifts lovely antiques without a pang, but they do go to friends and colleagues. Marx, contrary to that surname, is a low-key capitalist who initially tries to turn a buck from old handbags and heels, but ends up dragging a sofa to the street.
If you are lucky, you pass on your possessions to persons who need them, or are least amused (Donald Trump toilet paper?) But too often we offload our stuff on someone who still believes more is more, just perpetuating accumulation. I held a garage sale where two sisters fought over my vacuum cleaner; one hissed at the other, "You already have three."
Though not a Patchett purist, I prefer giving. For about twenty-five years, I stored a hand-loomed hat made by a British knitwear designer, Maggie White. I tried to wear it one chilly day a few months ago. Because it carried the memory of a painfully-ended relationship, I still did not enjoy it. A friend dropped by and mentioned that she had bought the same hat in the '90s, but hers was faded.
She happily accepted mine; the pleasure that gave me far outweighed any sum it might have fetched.