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For a short time, I had a humorous/observational column in a local magazine called Upstate Women. Unfortunately, the magazine is no longer being published. I enjoyed the experience of writing a column so much, that I would like to continue writing in that vein. So once a month, I will offer a new column about something that bugs me in some way that may strike a chord with you, too.

Several of the columns you will see have already been published; the others were written after the demise of the magazine. The column will be called "Inanities" because I feel that is the word which aptly describes the things that make us want to smack our heads in frustration. Please let me know your reactions to these columns as I would enjoy hearing what bugs you, too. You can reach me at


by Nancy Rechtman

When we were young, we eagerly anticipated receiving presents for birthdays and holidays. The more things we received the better. We ripped off the wrapping paper, yanked off the bows, and wildly dug into the boxes to see what goodies were awaiting us. We squealed with delight upon discovering a new toy or game, then tore into the next painstakingly-wrapped box with unfettered excitement and enthusiasm. Even if it wasn’t exactly what we wanted, the thrill of owning something new overtook any other concerns.

The one thing I don't remember being concerned about was where I would put my new treasures. After all, I had two dressers and a closet. And, if all of that space was already claimed, there was always the basement. But one day, my outlook on acquiring new possessions made a seismic shift. I can't tell you at exactly what age things changed, but suddenly, instead of being filled with joy as I accumulated more things, I began to wonder where in the world I was supposed to put everything. Soon, I no longer shopped for new things. Instead, I shopped for things into or onto which I could put or store my things. I am reminded of George Carlin's routine about his stuff where he puts forth the theory that any free space we have, no matter how large, will soon be filled by our stuff. In other words, nature abhors a vacuum (as do I) so if there is an empty space, the amount of stuff we have will expand exponentially in order to fill it up.

Today, businesses that help us de-clutter and organize our space are popping up like weeds on an overgrown lawn. Now, you can hire people to come to your house to help you learn where to put your things. Stores are filled with all manner of containers that provide you with a place for each and every one of your precious possessions. Instead of owning our possessions, it seems more like our possessions own us. We just have too much stuff. What's worse is that everywhere we go, we are told that we need more of it. We don't dare ask why it is so urgent that we now need to own a food processor, a blender, a smoothie machine, a crushed ice maker, a mini food processor, an immersion blender, a toaster, a toaster oven, a microwave, a hand mixer, a coffee maker, an espresso maker and a cappuccino maker when most of us barely have time to make a homemade meal as it is. I don't know about you, but in my kitchen I barely have enough counter space for the piles of bills and school information bombarding me on a daily basis. I know, I know. I'm supposed to have a nice little inbox with dividers to prioritize these things and neat little files for all the rest. Hey, I'm lucky if I can find two shoes that match in the morning as I'm racing to drive the kids off to school, so please save your sermons for someone who is not organizationally dyslexic. It's not that I wouldn't like to live in an orderly and tidy little world. It's just that I am constitutionally incapable of making nice, neat little homes for my papers and possessions so I have allowed them to roam wild and unabashedly unrestrained throughout our house.

We do have a rule that at least once a year, before the holidays, we raid the playroom and empty it of no-longer-used toys and games. We bring mountains of huge black trash bags filled with this loot to our local women and children's shelter. You would think that would mean that the room would now be neat and tidy with just a few well-loved items lining the walls. However, within one day of our trip to the shelter, when the door to the playroom is opened, it is still impossible to find a clear path on which to walk and there are unexplained piles of unidentified things everywhere. Again, nature filling the vacuum. The same thing happens with cleaning out our closets. Along with the toys, we bring bag upon bag of clothing to that very same shelter. And again, upon our return home, I find that there is nowhere to hang any new clothing because the closets are crammed beyond their legal limits. I have come to the conclusion that our belongings actually replicate when we're not watching and I'm thinking about putting one of those nanny cams in the playroom and closets to see what goes on behind those closed doors.

I hope you get all that you wish for during this holiday season. Just remember to make sure you have a place for each of your new treasures. In fact, forget about asking for new things this year. Just ask for things that can hold your things. And maybe a new vacuum. Happy holidays.

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Copyright Nancy Machlis Rechtman, all rights reserved. Small excerpts of the column may be republished as long as appropriate credit is given. To request permission to publish larger portions or the entire column, e-mail