Bicycling Burglar Seeks Stuff

I watched a burglar bicycle past my house today while I drank a delicious cappuccino and watched my dogs wrestle in the sun-filled yard.

Maybe the heavy bag he was toting over his shoulder while madly pedaling his (stolen?) bike should have been a dead give-away, but at the time I did not realize the guy had just burgled one of my neighbor’s houses. This is Portland, Oregon, which is two-wheel heaven, so I have seen weirder things happen on bicycles. Last year I saw two guys try to carry a 40-inch flat screen between them on one bike. What I would give to know how that turned out. Maybe the TV was a stolen item, too?

A shirtless guy in shorts walked over from across the street later to let me know about the burglar guy. He said he had watched him park his old RV, take a bike out of the back and go on up our street only to come back later carrying the bag. My neighbor called the cops which I guess makes him a better neighbor than I am, since I had seen the RV too, but kept drinking my cappuccino and admiring my dogs in the sunshine. I told the shirtless neighbor that I would keep an eye out though, just in case the thief eluded the cops in his beat up old RV.

While Mr. Bicycling Burglar Dude was accumulating stuff, I have been busy along with my husband Brian, divesting ourselves of some of our own stuff. I like to do this periodically. I walk around the house looking at all of our belongings and think, “Hmm, I don’t need that thing anymore” and “Did we ever need that?” I find it clarifying to get rid of things. It simplifies my life.
birchbark mirror
I am a fan of craigslist along with various social media pages that have online garage sales to let people like me get rid of things they don’t have room for in their lives. I am careful about craigslist because I don’t want to be murdered just on account of putting up an ad to sell a birchbark-framed mirror for 40 bucks. The people I meet via craigslist or the online garage sale pages seem pretty cautious too, which is reassuring. One woman who bought a cabinet from me became a hiking buddy, so that was a great transaction. So far, I have only sold things, having no desire to replace my old crap with new crap.

Everybody buying your stuff wants a deal. I love haggling when when I’m traveling in, say, Morocco, but in Portland I just want to put a fair price on something and have people pay that. I hate the game of figuring out how much to advertise a thing for, knowing that every single person will want me to cut the price in half. I try not to think about how much we actually paid for the stuff originally. There is no victory in doing that.

Instead, I imagine my new world with one less item in it to weigh me down. I actually feel physically lighter with every thing that goes out the door.

Brian and I are learning to let go. Some things are more difficult than others to say so long to. It’s hard to put a price on memories and nobody wants to pay extra because you have tender feelings for an object you put up for sale. Brian feels better if the doodad goes to a good home. He likes to give the potential new owner some historical background to help them appreciate the ancient Milwaukee Sawzall we want to sell them.

I find his method charming, but it’s not for me. My transactions are friendly though businesslike. It’s just stuff. Granted, it’s stuff that I have admired and liked having around but once I have decided it can go, that’s it. I keep my memories to myself, snug inside.

The interior of our house looks a bomb went off, if it were a sorting-your-stuff-bomb. Organized chaos, my friend called it. I like that phrase but I’m pretty sure it would not look organized to anybody but me. I wouldn’t even know if the Bicycle Burglar had been here and snatched anything. If I spot him in the neighborhood again, I might suggest a career change for him: buying our possessions dirt cheap and selling them at a profit. Beats going to jail because your bike chain fell off in a getaway.

Barbara Gabriel

Writer. Day Stealer. Chronic Traveler. Raised along Highway 61 in Minnesota, I ran away to sea & messed about in boats. I curse like a sailor and love travel, food, most people, and a well-fitting pair of boots. I try to combine those any chance I can.


  1. I’m with Brian- I sold my flute that I learned in childhood along with a collection of porcelain, wooden, pewter, etc. dog figurines at a garage sale. I was happy they went to two gentlemen who were buying them for their daughters.

    • I think you mean “daughters”. No, just kidding. I feel great about our things having a new life with someone else; sort of a new lifespan. I like the idea that a new set of stories is created within those new relationships. Maybe I’m like my mom: it’s not the things themselves I love, it’s the people, the memories. I hold those close to my heart. Thanks for reading! I’m enjoying your Irish adventure.

  2. I am slowly, but surely to rid my house of stuff, Barbara. I am so, so sentimental about some things – especially things that belonged to my husband. I’d like for someone to come and go through my things and if I don’t have to touch it, I might be able to give it away.
    I love this post about the bicycling burgler. Who would have thought?

    • I don’t know how quickly I would be willing to part with Brian’s things if he passed, Glenda. If your husband’s things aren’t a burden to you, keep them around. It would be easier, wouldn’t it, to switch houses with a friend for a week and sort through each other’s stuff that hadn’t been used for awhile. Maybe we could start a system going?

  3. Great little story. Loved the lead in with the burglar on the bike. The whole casualness of the event and your personal reflections and musings on ‘stuff’ was so well done.

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