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A Sentimental Illness?

Hartman Wonders Why We Save So Much Old Stuff

This week's commentary is by 60 Minutes Columnist Steve Hartman. It was last broadcast on July 21, 2004.
For as long as I can remember, I've been saving everything you can imagine.

In fact, I'm so sentimental, I'm worried I may have a sentimental illness.

I keep my stuff in my old room back in Toledo, Ohio. I've got the shirt from when I worked at Wendy's. I've got my first calculator, and I've got stuff I don't even remember why I've saved.

I've got all of my baby teeth and my wisdom teeth. And my retainer. I'm very sentimental about my dental work.

Weeding through that closet, I also found a weed. This goes back to my first girlfriend, Star Helminsky. I remember she picked one, and I picked one, and we swore to each other we'd save them forever.

Since I was home, I tracked her down at the fabric store where she works. It had been 25 years, but I knew if anyone would understand, it was Star.

"Do you remember us picking these things?" I asked Star.

"No," she says, laughing.

Well, that was awkward.

After that, I decided to just go door to door, scouring my hometown for anybody who saved anything as strange as I had.

One lady saved the first buttonhole she had ever sewn. "It's a hole, yeah. It's a hole with thread around it," she says.

Another guy still had his yo-yos. And my personal favorite, one woman kept the steering wheel from the school bus she used to drive. "If anybody can have an affair with a bus, I loved the bus," she says.

One fellow saved a piece of siding from his grandmother's house. "There are no words to describe how much that means to me," he says. "That rotten piece of wood...that rotten piece of wood."

Are the kids fighting over who gets it yet?

"No, they think it's stupid."

Which begs the question: Why do we save all this stuff?

I know my retainer won't last any longer than me. And certainly, pictures would be more practical. The difference is, with pictures you can only see where you've been, but with stuff, you can actually reach out and touch it.

Or not.