Monday, August 10, 2009

Stuff - Literally

(Disclaimer and apologies: I'm going to use the word "stuff" quite a few times in this post.)

I have some friends from elementary and high school coming to my house in a few weeks. Although I told them not to expect me to weigh the same as I did in high school or to have clean closets, I spent this weekend cleaning my daughters' closets and a few other nests of stuff in preparation for their visit. (At least that was my excuse.) To say that I cleaned the closets out would be incorrect; I cleaned them up. The girls all live in small spaces and don't want to take much of their stuff with them when they move from place to place. I don't blame them. But all this cleaning up made me think about why we keep stuff.

This statistic was sent to me on Facebook when I commented about the cleaning: 1957 Personal Storage Industry: $0. 2007: $12 billion a year. I wondered: why did our parents not have all that stuff but we do?

Then, in an amazing show of synchronicity, the message at church yesterday was about stuff. How we measure our lives by it, how we use it to fill up empty spaces, how it determines whether we're (temporarily) happy or not.

So stuff. What has changed? Certainly the media feed our frenzy for stuff. Newer, better, faster, more beautiful stuff. There are so many more places to buy stuff than there were when my parents were raising us. Online stores put the world's merchandise literally at your fingertips.

We are, though, attached to our stuff. In my daughters' closets are their childhoods: stuffed animals, kindergarten papers, t-shirts and sweatshirts from vacations, caps and gowns, award certificates and art. Getting rid of it is like the last gesture at ridding my house of that time of life, and I admit I'm reluctant.

Then there is the survival mentality that I have: what if I need it? Blankets, batteries, books, dishes, candles, camping equipment - they all fall into this category. I'm afraid that we might have an emergency like Hurricane Fran (or worse) and I want to be prepared. I'm working on this, trying to develop an attitude that there will always be enough, forcing myself to only buy what I need for the week or the month. It has helped cut down on the stuff for sure.

But I still have to restrain myself on my way home from work every day to keep from shopping. For groceries, books, and sometimes clothes. More stuff that I will eventually clean out and take to Goodwill or the used book store or throw away because it's out of date. I decided yesterday in church that I will try coming straight home and meditating for a few minutes, replace my need for stuff with some substance. I will try filling up the inside instead of the outside.

And frankly, I'm hoping like hell it works, because cleaning out stuff is too much like work.

1 comment:

Greta said...

Mamie, I can wholeheartedly relate to your "stuff." I don't like clutter but find it hard to get rid of the most cluttery things! Letters (remember, before email?), photos, awards, souvenirs,etc, most of it kid-related.

Since I buy most clothing at Goodwill or the PTA Thrift Shop, it's not to hard to part with that stuff. I just pull out 8 or 10 things I haven't worn lately and re-donate it. That lets me turn around and buy 8 or 10 more.

Works for me!