Maybe you have the same problem we have at our house.

Every time we leave home in our car, it's almost a certainty that we'll come back with a bunch of stuff that will then have to be stowed away somewhere.

This can include (though it is not limited to) food, clothing, home accessories, household goods, home improvement materials or supplies, furniture items, tools, weapons, bedding, notions, gadgets, gizmos, doo-dads and whatnots.

We're running out of places to put the stuff, and yet we keep bringing home more.

Part of the problem is that we - the other person who lives at our house and I - have kind of made shopping our hobby.

We don't exactly spend a lot, considering neither one of us is in a very high tax bracket, but we love to prowl the secondhand stores - you know, Goodwill, Value Village, William Temple House, that sort of thing - and we're both bargain-crazy fools.

In my case, it's shirts, jeans, CDs and books that I'm looking for. For her, anything is fair game. And, even though we try to hold ourselves to pretty high standards (it's got to be quality stuff, with no burns, stains, rips or streaks, and it's got to be cheap), we're still quite capable of coming home with a pile of stuff.

It doesn't help that I have become, over the years, a veritable master of hiding, storing, stashing and disguising our meager possessions. The space above the rafters in our garage, for instance, is so packed with things, including tables and chairs, trunks and other big items, I not only can't get anymore up there - I also can't get most of it down, either.

Here's another example. A few years ago, I built a set of wall-to-wall bookshelves in a nook up above the door of our TV/computer room that cannot be accessed until I bring the ladder in from the garage. The shelves are full of books, of course, but they're pretty much stuck there until I lug the ladder upstairs (not an easy chore) and crawl up there fireman-style.

So, it was with considerable interest that I read this press release from the Salvation Army, promising that they want to help me with spring cleaning.

'As people start to sort through their items and get rid of things they no longer want or need, it is the perfect time to remind them that The Salvation Army will help make the process easier by picking up their slightly used items - free of charge!' it trumpeted.

The notice went on to explain that 'The Salvation Army Family Thrift Stores have become a valuable resource for families during the recent economic difficulty.'

But now, the agency insists, 'The Salvation Army needs donations! It could not be easier to donate. By simply calling 800-SATRUCK or going online at, consumers can schedule a convenient pick-up time without any cost! This makes spring cleaning easy and stress free while helping neighbors in need!

'Items sold in The Salvation Army Thrift Stores are the sole source of funding for their Adult Rehabilitation Centers, where people with addiction and other major social problems can start new lives.'

Which, of course, is fine and dandy, but it doesn't really address my problem. I don't need to be any more organized. The stuff I have is very organized, thank you very much.

I just need to be tranquilized the next time I head out to get more stuff.

OK, I'll admit we could do a better job of donating some of our older things back to the nonprofits we get them from. In fact, I do that pretty regularly anyway, because I have one closet and one dresser to put them in. Whenever something new comes in, something old has to go out.

It's not that hard when you don't spend very much on the stuff in the first place.

We probably should think of it like beer - you don't really buy it, you just rent it.

Former editor of the Lake Oswego Review and former managing editor of the Beaverton Valley Times and The Times, serving Tigard, Tualatin and Sherwood, Mikel Kelly handles special sections for Community Newspapers and contributes a regular column.

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