Revisiting Swift’s ‘A Modest Proposal’

John Clark amid a flurry of activity here in Hartland. As many of you know, we’re in the process of selling one home and buying another. Given the market in Hartland, Beth and I figured we’d be dealing with owning two properties for a while (Nightmare version—a year or more). However, the fates seem to be smiling on us. 70 Pleasant Street was on the market for less than six hours before we had someone request a showing and they made an offer that evening. As part of the deal, I must part with my beloved zero turn mower, but I can live with the loss, especially since we’ll be less than half a mile from Home Depot in Waterville who can deliver a new one.

Bye Hartland House. We’re off to see the big city.

In the continuing process of downsizing/decluttering, I’ve realized that it’s really a sequential process. The more we look at stuff around here, the more we realize how little we’re going to need in the future. Add in my philosophy on the Zen of value (nothing has any until someone else wants it, or it has decreasing worth once you figure you’ll never use it again) and it becomes increasingly easier to part with ‘stuff.’ There’s another level beyond that, I’ve discovered. In the process of evaluating what’s still desirable, I’ve started to realize that in the future, my wants are also going to decrease. I’m still a hopeless book buying addict and fancy brewed coffee still rules my waking hours, but not much else raises interest these days (well really good cheese and Bolthouse Farms carrot and mango juices DO come to mind).

There’s also the freeing aspect of making a physical location change. When you move, you don’t need to bring location-related responsibilities with you. I’m tiring more easily, my knee is perpetually cranky and the thought of sitting in a comfy chair, outside when warm, inside when cold, with a new book in hand, strikes me as nirvana for my age and mindset.

Now, as to my reinterpretation of Swift’s modest proposal, ponder the following. Most of us have a hell of a hard time letting go of stuff. We can reach the verbal stage of insight when the topic arises quite easily, but pulling the trigger on a house full of possessions, that’s scary. I have a win-win proposal. We have a lot of incarcerated felons, many with burglary skills. Why not select the most promising ones, give them some customer relations training, have them agree to weekly random drug testing and then market them as professional declutterers.

Someone gets awesome gardens. We’ll be starting from scratch.

Prospective clients would be allowed to take up to 10% of their household goods as off-limits. Then they go on a weekend getaway. The professional declutterer, goes through their home and snags stuff. What they grab goes into a possession escrow and the clients have a week to remember what’s missing and decide if they really want or need any of the stuff back. Whatever isn’t reclaimed (and there will be limits on the gimme-back option), is kept by the declutterer to use or sell. They will be obligated to contribute 25% of the gross sales to a combination further rehabilitation and victims’ compensation fund.

I figure more wealthy areas in southern Maine can handle at least one of these folks per town, with Portland, Biddeford, etc. using a larger number. Up here in the other Maine, we’ll have to start small and see how it goes. So, good crime blog readers, what do you think? And now back to staring at the ‘we ain’t certain yet’ pile.

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7 Responses to Revisiting Swift’s ‘A Modest Proposal’

  1. Kate Flora says:

    I could use that person here. Alas, bad guys rarely steal books, plant pots, or the 5th black tunic top. Congrats on selling your lovely house.

  2. Gerald Lenaz says:

    Love this approach. Going to try it ASAP…that is as soon as I stop haggling over our “this may come in handy some day” pile.

  3. Great points and a unique approach! 😉 Wonderful that you received an offer so quickly on your beautiful home. Also, aside from books, your other pleasures—coffee, cheese, and juice—don’t accumulate. And what is a house without books?

  4. Lea Wait says:

    Luck to you, John — sounds as though you’ve made major progress toward your new life!!!!!

  5. Pingback: Revisiting Swift’s ‘A Modest Proposal’ — Maine Crime Writers – Three Rivers Novelties

  6. Julianne Spreng says:

    John: I grew up conserving all my clothes until the closets, drawers…you name it…were stuffed. One year for Christmas, my sister gave me a certificate to help go through my beloved items. I had to try everything on. If it didn’t fit, it didn’t stay. If I hadn’t worn it in the last 12 months, allowing of course for seasons, it didn’t stay. If it didn’t go with anything else I had, you get the idea. The only odd thing she let me keep was a pair of white overalls with a rhinestone sun on the bib that I had made years before and could still fit into. Looking at all those bags of clothes was really hard, but after they were gone, oh my gosh, the feeling of freedom and lightness was extraordinary! From that moment on it was so much easier to let go.

    Fancy coffee and a new book sounds like heaven! Congratulations of the gift of the quick sale. You have the right attitude about the move and will do well.

    • Julianne Spreng says:

      P.S. As regards your burglar suggestion, mom’s have been doing this for years. Threatening to toss it if you don’t pick it up. If they don’t recognize it’s gone, it will be.

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