My Stuff of Dubious Origin


My wife caught me stuffing muffins into a big plastic bowl.

“Don’t you dare!” she cried.

We were headed for a potluck and since she works and I am retired, I had foolishly promised to take care of our contribution – which resulted in a last minute mad dash to the Quickie-Mart.

“What’s the problem?” I asked.

I expected her to say something about Quickie-Mart muffins – but she didn’t.

“It’s the bowl,” she explained.

It wasn’t much of one, just a soft yellow Tupperware container with a lid so faded that it was no longer transparent. I couldn’t see what the big deal was.

“It’s not ours.,” she continued, “and I have no idea whose it is.”

It used to be that people put their names on things when they went to potlucks. Now, no one does. Probably because everything comes from the Quickie-Mart. But I understood what she was getting at with the bowl. All kinds of things wander into our house – often unescorted and that creates ticklish problems.

Did we walk off with something?

Was it left here?

Have we forgotten to return it?

Was our place used as a stash by my buddy Stan and if so, are the police looking for it?

These are all questions best avoided.

But the bigger problem is that we have too much stuff. We have closets bulging with stuff. We have storage rooms stacked to the ceiling with precarious piles of unidentifiable objects. We have a shed we are too scared to enter because of what might lurk in there.

We have so many things that we have come to have doubts about the origins of most of it.

I blame it all on the tyranny of abundance.

There is so much stuff in the world that people are losing track of what is theirs and what is not. We have long since shifted from a society that defended its possessions to one that must defend itself against accumulating possessions.

And while we live in the looming shadow of embarrassment due to having something we should not, others live under the threat that we might return whatever it was they dumped on us.

“How about this one?” I asked, pulling another container off the shelf.

“No way,” she said, “we got that at the last potluck. It held leftovers that everyone hated. I have no idea who tossed into our backseat – but I do not want anyone thinking it is ours.”

“Or this one?”

She shook her head, no.

“Or this?”


“Then what are we going to do?” I asked.

“Go back to Quickie-Mart and buy a new container – and for God-sake, this time let’s put our name on it.”

Author: Almost Iowa

34 thoughts on “My Stuff of Dubious Origin”

  1. Where did this jacket come from? Living in southern, CA – we never wear jackets. I certainly don’t buy any. Yet, we have some in the closet. I always tell my husband…”I don’t know, I acquired some how. Probably from a guy I used to date.”

  2. I get a headache as soon as I see or hear the word “stuff”. My house is full of “stuff” I don’t need and yet I can’t get rid of it, I just might NEED it one day!

  3. All that stuff you can’t figure out where you got it and you hate it, just take it over to Stan’s with a note: “This is your stuff.” Then sign it Anonymous. He’ll never know if it was or not. After all, he’s probably left stuff in half the garages in the country, right?

  4. Couldn’t agree more about the tyranny of abundance! We all have too much stuff these days, and managing it is no picnic. I have a set of salad tongs that I didn’t buy, but no one who has come to a pot luck at my house in the past several years will admit to bringing them.
    And I still have my grandmother’s cake holder. I know, because it has her name on it. Different times……

  5. Lol. “We have long since shifted from a society that defended its possessions to one that must defend itself against accumulating possessions.” OMG. Too true. I’m in a constant state of unloading and don’t seem to make a dent.

  6. Too funny! I have a rule…if we buy something new, then something unused goes out. And that means we give it away, donate it, find a way to repurpose it with someone who might value it. It’s very freeing to have few possessions by the way… you should give it a try. The less stuff, the less hassle. I no longer get attached to material things for the most part. Because we have been nomadic for a few years before settling into a base here in Sri Lanka, we accumulated very little. Bliss.


    1. New stuff in = old stuff out is a solid rule, however, it does not account for the detritus that finds it own way into our lives. Maybe that is why we have moved so many times, it was our only practical way of shedding stuff.

      The shed is the worst. Lumber and odds bits of metal are piling up out there, along with various machines in an increasingly sad state of disrepair. We keep these things because we might find a use for them – and I have built thing like the garden boxes out of salvaged lumber, but the pace of reuse cannot match the pace of accumulation.

      Maybe American Pickers can help.

  7. I have a perfect solution for how not to accumulate Tupperware at potlucks. I don’t even buy muffins at the grocery store. I go to these events empty handed (no one knows I didn’t set up my gourmet dish up earlier in the day). Then I pretend I brought a disposable tray and sail home unencumbered.

    1. We tried that until our family, friends and neighbors discovered what we were doing and started tossing the leftovers into our backseat and the bed of our pickup. There is no escaping it.

  8. Sounds like you need to remind yourself of the “regifting” tradition. Someone’s probably already regifted this stuff to you, it’s only fair to pass it on. Think fruitcake.

    1. That might work in an urban environment but out here, where everyone keeps talking about how your great-grandfather farted in church when he was eight, it is foolhardy. People can recite mental lists of what you brought to potlucks for your entire life.

  9. ha! This was not the ending I expected. Too funny! George Carlin did a great riff on ‘stuff.’ I miss George Carlin.

    1. We have been living under this tyranny for years and the mainstream media chooses to ignore it. Even FOX refuses to cover it. 🙂

  10. I can’t help you with your stuff, I have enough of my own. However, I can help you with one aspect of the Tupperware situation. If you want to know which Tupperware is not only yours, but also one of your newest/best pieces, it’s the one you drained your tractor’s oil into last week. Guaranteed!

  11. You and your beloved could become heroes of the county. Throw a party, and tell everyone that the ticket of admission is to bring all their SO DO (Stuff of Dubious Origin). The invitations could say SO DO It! Make sure everyone knows it’s a guilt-free evening, and no one will be prosecuted, shamed, or gossiped about afterwards. Everyone could reclaim or dump as they chose, knowing that anything left over would go straight to Goodwill.

    I’d do it in a minute.

    1. That is such a great idea – but sadly, it runs against the grain of rural living. Keep in mind that history is constructed from memorable events and what could be more memorable than failing to return an oval-shaped casserole dish?

    1. I admire your will-power, John, but it is like dieting and swearing off Netflix. You will go along just fine until you crumble and binge.

  12. The solution for not embarrassing yourself with too much stuff is….more stuff?

    Yea…that’s the ticket 😀

    Might I suggest taking some stuff you can’t be seen in public with and donating it to Goodwill? Or is ‘Them’s fightin’ words?’ the only response to this question?

    1. I suppose that we could stage a super-secret operation in the middle night to unload stuff that the Goodwill…..but you have to ask yourself, can they trace it back to us. 🙂

  13. Hahaha this is brilliant. I also have a collection of dishes people have left at my house over the years, though my main fear in using them is that I’ll do so to serve the original owner someday!

    1. Always blame Stan. It is what I do and it works. I am not sure if we have more stuff than years past, only that when I was working, I was too busy to notice.

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