We Americans are well known for excess.

From much of the world’s viewpoint, we have more than we need of pretty much everything. TV shows like “American Pickers” highlight that fact and even glorify it to some extent, because having a lot of “stuff” is interesting.

While my wife and I don’t by any means have outbuildings packed to the rafters with things we’ve “collected” for decades (like the folks pickers Mike Wolf and Frank Fritz regularly deal with on their popular show), we also haven’t entirely been exceptions to the “American Stuff” rule. But rather than blindly clinging to boatloads of stuff that does little other than occupy space, we’ve truly come to realize we have more stuff than we need, and have taken action to rectify the situation.

Doug Davison

Doug Davison

We haven’t yet hired a moving van to come to our remote Texas County high country outpost and haul away our problems all at once (and that’s not likely to happen), but we have chipped away our relatively modest accumulation by sending out more than we bring in. Whether by way of “setting up” at an outdoor flea market and making a few bucks, donating to a local charitable organization, or simply contributing to the landfill near Hartville, we’ve seen many items deemed excessive go bye-bye in the recent past.

Each and every time we put together another bag or box of stuff to go away, we can’t help but ponder why much of it exists. It’s like, why again do we have this old lazy Susan or this we never use?

I, of course, take the pondering a step further and try to analyze why excess stuff in general is so integral to American society. I guess it’s at least in part because of a more-is-better mindset, and I think “more” is often justified with a number of illogical and emotional rationalizations, like status, success and even security. It’s like, the more stuff, the more esteem and assuredness of well being. I think there’s even a wholeness aspect involved – like if a piece of stuff goes away, a portion of someone’s collective entirety goes, too, and there’s a hesitance to face that discomfort.

But I, for one, am calling out the whole “stuff” thing, and taking satisfaction in an ongoing de-stuffing program. My wife and I might not yet have attained “minimalist” status (and likely never will), but we’re culling, trimming, paring, diminishing and generally reducing whenever we can in every way we can.

And we’re doing it the only way I think it can be done – without hesitation and with no regard to regret. I’m pretty sure we’re safe; we probably won’t even remember the stuff that “goes,” let alone miss it.

Anyway, I can truthfully say it feels great and has proven very rewarding to move out the stuff. Our home feels lighter, airier and less cluttered each time an unnecessary wall hanging comes down or a bunch of old clothes are bagged up.

And we’re far from finished. Can I interest you in a like-new set of microwavable plastic storage containers, a 26X22 cabin-by-a-lake print in handmade wooden frame or three pairs of barely used sandals? How about a four-head hi-fi VCR and a box of gently used VHS movies?

They’ve all gotta go, and you’re more than welcome to add them to your stuff.

Doug Davison is a writer, photographer and newsroom assistant for the Houston Herald. Email: ddavison@houstonherald.com.

Until a couple of years ago, I probably wouldn’t have even considered – let alone enjoyed – wandering around in a large, one-room building lined with rows of booths filled with shelves packed with random stuff.

But now I like going to flea markets.

The idea never appealed to me of standing in a crowd trying to outbid someone in order to secure ownership of someone else’s house-wares, tools or furniture.

But now I like going to auctions.

And I used to think rooting through stuff piled on plywood boards resting on saw horses was a better way to stir up dormant mold spores than to locate anything worth purchasing.

But now I see yard sales as opportunities.

The bottom line is, I have punched a one-way ticket to used merchandise land and there’s no going back.

Doug Davison

Doug Davison

And I don’t want it to be a round trip; I’m now a card-carrying member of the used merch club – I like the selling and I like the buying and what was once a silly waste of time is now interesting and a neat way to spend an afternoon.

I don’t think there was an instant when I suddenly came to a realization about the matter; I had no flea market epiphany, auction moment or yard sale flash. It came upon me more gradually, through repetition. At first, I went along with my wife to help out, but I was eventually “fished in.”

Of course, now that March has arrived, the busiest times of used merchandise season aren’t far off.

As long as a late-winter blast of cold from Alberta doesn’t settle in over the Ozarks, it won’t be long before those of us who enjoy the used junk culture will be “setting up” in Cabool, stocking up at the fairgrounds in Rolla, cruising the booths in Ozark or getting up early on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays to make the rounds of a given week’s yard sales.

And now that nights are graced by the sound of frogs croaking in the cow ponds, it’s about time to organize all that stuff in the outbuilding and get it ready to be displayed for purchase. I don’t really remember what’s in all those boxes, but it will be fun being reminded.

I guess I’m looking forward to all of it – the sorting, the selling, the searching and the acquiring of more. And it will be interesting to see what really cool stuff my wife comes up with along the way. She has found some really nice house décor and furniture for a song at all three types of used merchandise venues – much to the benefit of our remote outpost.

Being exposed to the realm of used junk (OK fine, antiques and collectibles) and becoming familiar with its nuances, jargon and etiquette has been more than fun and fascinating, it has also taught me plenty.

My flea market knowledge now includes what it’s like to run a booth, what kind of stuff sells best and what makes some spots better than others when setting up outdoors.

In terms of auctions, I now where to stand, when to move and which stuff on the tables or backs of trailers is cool and which is going to have to be paired with something else to move even for a buck.

I’m now even comfortable with the term “vintage.”

In turn, I can now tell the difference between a vintage metal oil lantern and one that has been sitting around rusting and gathering dust after being purchased at Walmart six years ago.

I now know that Shawnee pottery can get some people really excited and cause them to lay down some pretty serious cash.

And I have seen first-hand how a box of random stuff can be bought for $2 and end up containing everything from worthless old plastic cups to an old vase that can be resold for $23.

Yep, my whole perspective of the deal has changed –even the way I view auctioneers.

I always thought the way they used badly-tuned, crackly-sounding portable public address systems to bark out unintelligible “language” was just, well, silly.

Now I think what auctioneers do is kind of cool, even if they are seemingly oblivious to how bad their audio systems sound. I admire the way they can stay focused for hours on end on the importance of getting $3.50 out of a set of salt-and-pepper shakers instead of $3 and making sure the best books are sold separately while the rest go in sets of three and four.

And there’s nothing quite like experiencing the fleeting moment of triumph that occurs when a tried and true auctioneer points at you and says “sold to number 169 – 169’s the buyer.”

I’ve even seen them keep their focus at outdoor auctions in January when the temperature was 30 degrees, wind was blowing and wet snow was falling. Now that’s dedication (or something else). But I much prefer the warm-air variety of sale, as I’m sure the men with the microphones do.

Having perused many an Ozark flea market (and there definitely is MANY an Ozark flea market), I’ve gained a much keener eye for what I’m looking at on those shelves and walls and strewn around on the floor.

I now understand that you never know when you might see the corner of a really nice framed painting of a horse sticking out from under a pile of button-down sweaters. You have to stay alert so you don’t miss the valuable carnival glass candy dish that’s priced at only $1.75 but is obscured by an ugly old lampshade.

And there’s always that possibility of finding a VHS copy of that movie you always wanted to see and purchasing it for only 50 cents – but you may have to check the tapes at the bottom of the box that are hidden by others piled on top of them.

I suppose it’s no coincidence that one of my favorite TV shows is the History Channel’s American Pickers. I’m pretty sure they have one of the ultimate forms of occupation.

Sorting through junk piled to the ceiling in a Tennessee backwoods outbuilding that nobody has set foot in for 30 years. Moving a dusty old broken dresser out of the way and discovering a well-preserved 1930s era toy car under an old blanket.

Finding and buying rare, old junk and making good money selling it.

Sign me up.

And speaking of making the rounds of weekly yard sales, it’s uncanny how you can end up seeing the same friend or acquaintance at almost every stop. When that happened one time with a lady my wife and I know, she said, “we ought to plan ahead and car pool.”

That idea sounds good on the surface, but the problem with it is, if we find a great vintage rolling beverage cart or get a deal we can’t refuse on a pair of 16-inch saddles we know we can turn for double the amount, we might need to put some stuff in the back seat.

Then what?

Anyway, enough crunchy grass and wintry mixes. I’m ready to get into used merch mode.

The time is nigh when someone at an auction is going to get a good deal on a barely used four-person tent, someone at a flea market is going to find an authentic cast iron Dutch oven (complete with lid) that’s priced like a copy, and someone’s going to triple their money on a box full of lead ropes and bridles they found lying on a rusty metal chair at a yard sale.

The way I see it, that someone might as well be me.

Doug Davison is a writer, copy editor and advertising representative for the Houston Herald. E-mail: ddavison@houstonherald.com.