Tonawanda News

January 22, 2014

DUVALL: An ode to stuff

By Eric DuVall
The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — I’ve been thinking a lot about a deceptively complicated subject lately. I’ve been thinking a lot about stuff.

Stuff, as in, “where did all my stuff go?”

Stuff, as in, “why do I have so much stuff?”

Stuff, as in, “where did I put that stuff?”

If you’re scratching your head, you’re not alone. Some context is necessary.

Regular readers of our Sunday Lifestyle section learned this week its editor Danielle Haynes is now the former editor, having moved back to her native Texas for another job.

In addition to the hole it leaves in our newsroom it leaves an empty room in my apartment. Haynes and I, friends since college, had lived together for the last five-plus years. Until Sunday, that is, when we loaded up her truck and she was sent packing.

The last week was spent packing, actually. Boxes stacked in the living room grew from a couple the first night to a pile that took up a quarter of the room.

Funny thing about the roommate situation is you don’t realize how much of the stuff in your apartment isn’t really yours.

And with the prospect of another person who hasn’t lived with me for years moving in, you start looking at all your stuff with a fresh set of eyes. What would some stranger think about my stuff, I wondered? Do I have nice stuff? Do I have too much stuff? What about their stuff? Will it be as attractive and plentiful as mine?

Then there’s the missing stuff.

I no longer own a potato peeler. Or a whisk. And probably a whole bunch of other things I haven’t figured out yet. Those are in boxes somewhere in Texas that once held bottles of wine or bananas, now labeled “kitchen.” 

I might not be able to peel a potato or bake a cake but I discovered I do own several sets of chop sticks rescued from discarded Chinese takeout bags that were stuffed — there’s that word again — behind the silverware caddy. 

I am also the proud new owner of what I think is cornmeal. And oats of some sort. Lots more flour than I ever thought we had — discoveries made when I finally summoned the intellectual curiosity to open the ceramic jars Danielle bought that have sat on my kitchen counter for years.

Oats. Who knew?

Then there was the final resting place for most stuff, the hall closet.

I opened it with trepidation. So much stuff! 

Out it came, shelf by shelf, organized into piles. I have seven different kinds of tape, five plastic kits with every kind of screw, nail, fastener imaginable — enough to hang every painting in the Albright-Knox, I think.

Four different bottles of cough syrup. Three boxes of Band-Aids. Six different kinds of painkillers, the subtle differences of which elude me but elicit the kind of momentary headache they were probably purchased to cure.

I am, at least until a female friend arrives to take them away, the proud new owner of a duplicative hair dryer and iron. I’ve got something to straighten my hair and something I came to find out is a hair curler — only after texting a picture of it to someone with the question “what the hell is this thing?”

Curling irons don’t look like they used to. 

The closet is organized again, like I imagine it was at some point five years ago when I put all that stuff in there in the first place. It looks like a lot less stuff once it is in order. And after you throw out about a dozen half-full bottle of conditioner. I never realized I was so well prepared for hair-related emergencies.

One thing I definitely did not know I’d been saving amid all that stuff? These 670 words.

Eric DuVall is the managing editor of the Tonawanda News. Contact him at or follow him on Twitter, @EricRDuVall.