GREG HARTON: Some "stuff" becomes a real hit

One look in my garage and you'd be hard-pressed to believe I don't see value in having a bunch of "stuff."

A garage my wife can park in falls into the category of aspiration. A garage so uncluttered I can also fit my pickup inside might qualify as a delusion.

Stuff tends to get in my way more than it enhances my life. At least a couple of sizable closets at my house are only theoretically the walk-in variety, because to walk, there must be room on the floor for feet to find a path. Getting to that piece of luggage in the back corner requires more moves than a chess game. Chalk it up as one of those "it's got to get worse before it gets better" experiences.

Maybe it's a natural byproduct of getting older, but ideas about minimalism have started to make some sense to me. What's minimalism? It's a basic approach that attempts to break free of a life hooked on consumerism. It starts to be attractive once you figure out that "stuff" cannot deliver lasting joy and satisfaction.

It's easy to assume minimalism is about depriving oneself of modern comforts by living a monk-like life of austerity. Today's version, however, appears to eschew such demands or judgment. The mentality suggests it's fine to own stuff as long as the stuff doesn't own you.

A couple of guys known as The Minimalists, Joshua Fields Milburn and Ryan Nicodemus, are strong voices for minimalism these days. They suggest it's a lifestyle "that helps people question what things add value to their lives." In other words, they ask, how might your life be better if you owned fewer material possessions and focused intently on things that matter greatly in your life. Get rid of everything except those items that bring joy, they suggest.

Their message is an intriguing one, even if I haven't reached the point of rabid adoption.

Some stuff remains pretty cool. Last weekend, my teenage sons and I made a quick turnaround trip to St. Louis to see the Cardinals' second game in the National League Championship Series vs. the Washington Nationals. Before the game, we toured the Cardinals Hall of Fame Museum.

Cardinals fans and many fans of baseball know who Stan Musial is. Musial's baseball career was over before I was even born, but he is the stuff of legends. When he retired Sept. 29, 1963, he held 17 major league records, 29 National League records and nine All-Star Game records. He played 3,026 regular-season games and was never ejected. He was on three St. Louis teams that won the World Series.

At retirement, "Stan the Man" was first in National League history in hits (3,630) and second in homers (475). He batted .331 in his career, putting him in the top ranks of all men to ever play the game.

It's virtually unheard of today, but his entire career was spent with one MLB team, the St. Louis Cardinals.

At the Hall of Fame, both Eli and Jett seized the opportunity to slip on protective gloves at the museum so they could hold one of Stan Musial's bats. Yes, I took photos. It was a moment, an experience worth remembering, and I don't think any of us will soon forget it.

Really, it's just a piece of wood. But there the three of us were, marveling at the chance to wrap our fingers around it as we imagined Stan the Man did before swinging.

There's a lot of stuff in my life that qualifies as clutter, but I'm sure glad people have the good sense to hang on to pieces of history.

If the measure of value is whether an item brings joy, that bat earned its keep.

Commentary on 10/20/2019

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