Online Edition 01.2007

Galen's Stuff | Jess Dewes
Photo Essay

Streetside Pick Up | Elie Gardner
Photo Elie Gardner

The Gift and Burden of Possession | Ari Holtz

Franklin Visits eBay! | Franklin Jennings

The Book| Luby Kelley
Illustration Matt Kindt

Killed By Their Own Art | Byron Kerman

Liberation | Julie Newberry

Bless This Mess | Claire Nowak-Boyd
Photos Michael R. Allen

Best of Mississippi Nights | Jim Utz

Print Edition   


Andrea Avery, Diana Benanti, Thomas Crone, M. Davis, Heidi Dean,  Amanda E. Doyle, Joe Esser,  Chris King, FranÁois Luong, L.A. Ramsey, Stefene Russell, Steven Schreiner, and Erik Smetana.


Andrea Avery, Thomas Crone, Bill Cable, Jess Dewes, Katy Fischer, Jane Godfrey, Dave Gray.

Liberation | by Julie Newberry

My grandparentís south city basement possessed a powerful allure. That distinct basementy smell added to its mystery by separating it from the rest of the house. Unlike the smooth drywall and concrete walls in our Sunset Hillsí basement, the rubble walls had an unevenness, which made me think of a castleís subterranean room. The door opened up and outward, at a 45 degree angle like in Kansas on the Wizard of Oz. This basement was filled with historic and unique stuff, just like the Scrubby Dutch triplex towering two stories above it.

Their Oregon Street home intrigued and influenced my decision for a state street address of my own. Instead of Pottery Barn, I filled my home with stuff from Pevely flea market and bought furniture on Cherokee Street. When decorating, I always imagined it was someone elseís shotgun apartment and I had just moved into it already filled with stuff and furnished with stories.

The sinister side of the collecting stuff emerged and gripped me like an addictionóthe book compulsion and music obsession. This compulsive and obsessive behavior was at a maximum level of crazy when it came to spending. At full retail price, I bought quantities of books I didnít read and CDs I barely listened to. I knew something needed to change when I felt anxious if a friend wanted to borrow something from my collection. The backlog of reading material was overwhelming. Sometimes no one was even near it and I feared an interest in MY STUFF. The concern of the question, ďMay I borrow that?Ē quieted me from sharing and delighting in the collection. This stuff owned me.

A realization was the turning pointóI am a creator not a collector. True collectors must feel and function differently about the stuff they collect. I couldnít not create, though. My-boyfriend-now husband and I would find or acquire things like a huge bakerís case which we turned into a plant terrarium, or the Mac that no longer worked became a fish tank. That was the happy side of stuff in my life. I would create these projects, keep and give them away. But I hoarded words and sounds. This behavior seemed to indicate a deeper issue.

My basic recovery started by bringing all my vinyl and CDs to work one day and giving them away, a rash move but a liberating one. This began the rigors of recovery. The therapy I practice includes, lending books and CDs readily, sometimes initiating the offer of a loan, and always without my name written on anything. I check them out from the library, many may have been previously owned by me. I only buy books from estate sales with caveats: mildew free, a quarter or less, and the books are confined to my bookshelf. Another aspect of my retail recovery is to knit instead of shop, I collect yarn (a completely different disorder) for a future knitting projects. The last aspect of recovery is the habitual stuff purge. I Freecycle regularly, which is more fun than shopping at estate sales. I suspect itís like the charge of winning a penny slot machine, real excitement and payoff without a large investment. When I find the perfect person who wants the junk I donít want, need, or use, itís a surge of thrill. And I can quit at any time.

Now that my over-proportioned stuff diet has been altered, my appetite has shrunk and I actually think about how my house probably weighs less. If it werenít for all the wood (thatís my husbandís deal) weíre storing, I sometimes think our house would float away.
Lately my recovery has deepened into the area of my mind. I am reaching inside myself to share words. A meaningful conversation requires me to stop hanging onto my words out of fear. Instead I am investing in memorable experiences with an ephemeral moment of risk. When I create a collection of words to share verbally or to write the burden of hoarding my own words is challenged. There is a bit of anxiety in this exposure but it seems worth it for growth. My words may not be returned or enjoyed by others as much as I enjoy creating them but it seems I am compelled to write. Sometimes itís messy like purging junk. You put some words out there and hope it helps. Itís like the self sacrifice and exposure of writing someone a letter of support when you donít receive feedback. Ultimately I do those things because I canít not do it, in other words because I must. Iím ready for some more self-therapy treatment and this time it is to purge the stuff of my mind.

This is the beginning of change.


Julie Newberry has a journalism degree from Mizzou. She and her husband live in an old, rubble foundation duplex in Richmond Heights. They keep their house weighted down by their biggest temporary collection of wood, which they will build into furniture or use for the interior of the new house they are building.