Teenage clutter is one of the common threads in the Zits comic strip.
I have raised two (now-thankfully-former) teenagers, so I relate to the clutter but I don’t remember my own teenaged years quite the same way.

See, back in the days that marked my own adolescence, when we walked three miles through the waist deep snow to school, uphill each way, we didn’t have that much stuff.

My parents spent their teen years in the Great Depression and it defined them — and me — in many ways. I have reused and repaired and recycled if I couldn’t reuse or repair far longer than Kermit the (green) Frog. I hate to throw anything away that might be somehow handy later. And I don’t buy materiel without due … consideration. As a kid, they (and later I) wanted for little. We eventually had a teevee. We had an end room full of books. We had a boat. We had a garden and two cars. We ate and dressed as well as anyone else I knew. I still wear khaki slacks and blue cotton button down oxford shirts, of course. I didn’t get a used dog until I was nearly 50; nothing but new dogs before that. And I gave away our only used cat.

But we didn’t have a lot of stuff.

Oh, sure, we had washing machine and a dryer in the kitchen because that’s where my mom wanted them. And two vacuum cleaners, one for upstairs and one for downstairs.

It surprised me to learn that the U.S. had a small boom in middle-class home ownership before World War II. The post-war boom apparently built on that, and on the pent-up demand from the Depression. The war stopped the fledgling consumerism and it took several years for the factories to gear back up, years that many returning G.I.s spent in college. Consumers started finding stuff to buy again in the 1950s. My folks bought an brand new 1950 Ford convertible. The television didn’t come until 1955. Got the “little boat,” a 21-foot cabin cruiser, in 1957.

But we didn’t have a lot of stuff.

Oh, sure, I had a Rawlings glove but it lived in the “toy box” on the back porch. There was no plethora of cleats and Air Jordans and walking shoes and running shoes and everyday sneaks and splashing-around-getting-mucky sneaks and sandals and Crocs. I had a pair of Keds. In the closet.

We had two phones in the house. I never had one in my room.

The 80s brought us the boombox. I truly have never owned one although I did borrow my dad’s transistor radio to carry to school in fifth grade.

Motorola sold the first cellphone in 1984. I didn’t have one. Or a computer, or a smart phone, or a TV in my room

We didn’t have a lot of stuff mostly because there wasn’t nearly as much stuff to have.

In Zits, mom Connie Duncan needs a metal detector to find her car keys in son Jeremy’s room. Maybe the Duncans “gotta move, gotta get a bigger house. Why? No room for [their] stuff anymore.

I didn’t need to move until much later in life. Back then, I didn’t store my clothes on the floor.

3 thoughts on “Cleanroom

  1. I’ve always liked my stuff neatly organized, so I never had a messy room, not even as a teen. Things should be where they’re supposed to be, and ideally arranged by color. Unfortunately, this all exists on a recessive gene apparently. It doesn’t matter how much stuff I have, it’s always organized and I can always find it — not only that, I can find other people’s messy, missing things too. That said, I like my new, smaller place that has fewer things because it’s just easier to deal with.

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