I slam the laptop shut, lock my fingers behind my head and lean back in a self-congratulatory stretch. I’ve just flogged off a roomful of furniture. After all the advertising and auctions and autobids, I’ve made a sweet $1,700. On the other side of the room sits a man staring glumly into the distance. He’s the man who paid, oooh, roughly $20,000 for the ‘bargains’ I’ve just sold. But his melancholy can’t wipe the smirk off my face. It’s not the stack of dollars I’m stoked about; it’s the space I’ve cleared.
The Trade Me auctions were the final brutal act in a three-year-long therapy session on downsizing. I’ve already shifted us out of a suburban house with four bedrooms, two lounges and a hundred bathrooms, into an apartment small enough to vacuum from a single power point. I’ve sold my car and banked all the hours spent trying to find a parking space. I’ve boxed up our CDs and replaced them with an iPad stocked with an Internet-sized supply of music.
You see, I’m tormented by our assets. Every stripe of sun fade on an expensive pillow, every tear in the chaise longue and every chip from a crystal glass reminds me I’m getting old. Breaking down. Devaluing. One day, me and my precious belongings will be so decrepit one of the grandkids will cart us all down to the dump and the old people’s home. If the couch is in better nick than me, it may well win the available spot at the rest home.
But for the man who bought all the furniture, it’s Trade Me that’s the torture. Every vase that walks out the door for $10 takes a story with it. He remembers buying that couch, where he first saw it, who helped him load it onto the trailer, how sad he was that year. He thinks we might yet regret the sale of the Black & Decker popcorn popper on a stormy weekend of movies and junk food. I think not. Plus, he’s just made $1.50 he didn’t have before. Score.
The man also remembers when chattels were cherished. Back then, dank air from the Great Depression still lurked in some unopened cupboards. Plastic covered the carpet in front of the couch, to preserve the threads from scuffing feet. Antimacassars protected the arms of the favourite chair from the scratching of fingers. Transparent vinyl wrapped itself across the dinner table to absorb the scrapes of the cutlery. He remembers a more noble time than these superficial days of annual colour updates in the endless march of changing interior decorating trends.
But, somewhere between fanatical conservation and wanton consumerism, the man and I are redecorating a home. In that home, toddlers will smear peanut butter on carpets without setting off an episode of Jerry Springer, friends will tuck their feet into couches, relatives will spill wine on dinner tables. In that house, we’ll value family over furniture and people over preservation. To get there, we just need to clear some space to fit the people in.
By the way guys, there’s still a storage unit full of furniture. Bargain prices.