The Ridiculousness of Stuff

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I really want to simplify my life.

I am a super busy person and am starting to feel the crunch of having a few too many obligations. I looked at my life and asked where I could make cuts. (This is not easy if you work full time, go to grad school, and have three kids, two of whom play sports, let me tell you.) So far I have condensed my email subscriptions, reduced my magazine habit to those I can read in the waiting room or check-out line, avoided the mall and those dreaded “after-the-holiday” sales, and sworn off most prime time television. I reduced the number of clubs and organizations I am involved with and try to enjoy just being. However … there is one aspect of my life that I am having the hardest time simplifying. My STUFF.

By far one of my favorite blogs out there is OnSimplicity. Recently I read the post about the but I might need it someday syndrome. I so understand this completely. I am a pack rat. Not in the weird keep-every-bottle-cap-I’ve-ever-found way, but more in a practical (or so I tell myself) I-may-have-a-use-for-it kind of way.

I will take a moment here and say that in my defense I did once make a complete “doll house” and “school bus” out of what my parents had deemed useless trash. (Did you know you can use those hard rounded rectangular mirror and flooring samples from the hardware store to make a cool over the seat-back rear-view mirror for an imaginary bus driver who is only three inches tall? Or that you can use the metal spout from a salt container to make an exhaust pipe for that same one-foot long painted yellow bus? Yep, it’s true.)

Anyway, the point is that as I am approaching yet another birthday, I find myself thinking more and more about just how much junk (yes the J-word) I have, and how happier I might be if I could just get rid of some of it.

Getting past the idea that I might need it, the reasoning for shedding these things is deeper. They have become a burden. We live in a consumer-driven culture, where bigger is better, and “why not just upgrade” thinking is the norm. Well, I am tired of the accumulation. There is so much that I don’t need, want, or to be honest, even remember that I have in the first place. This “stuff” sits in drawers, on shelves, in the hallway closet, on the porch, in the garage, collecting dust and becoming obstacles that I indelibly trip over or dump out when I am trying to locate the “stuff” I really need.

Do I really need seventy-five coffee mugs when I only use two, or three TVs all of which are now obsolete in the digital age? Maybe I will use those ten phone books, or really find a use for the broken pieces of trellis, the poster board with both sides used, or the infamous stop sign in the garage. I might fix the broken picture frames or eventually use the 10,000 “extra” buttons that every item of clothing you buy now cheerfully provides lest you lose one. Maybe … someday … right?

The absurdity of it.

So to get back to the point of this post, I was asked to write out a birthday list. I could have sat down and listed a bunch more “stuff” I could reasonably justify in getting, but this time I really tried to put some thought into it. I asked myself what I wanted, that could in no way qualify as stuff (meaning it would be incapable of taking of more room in my already packed house). It took a little while but when I was finished I admitted to myself that I was quite proud of what I had come up with.

Topping my list? Time.

Time for laughter, my kids, music, rafting trips, writing, working in the garden, exploring, romantic dinners, new experiences, old favorites …

So, as I approach the end of another year on this glorious planet I am making the conscious decision that I will reduce my “stuff” to a more manageable load. I admit it is an experiment, so I have no idea what will happen. But check back once in a while and see if I am making progress. If my theory is correct, the difference will be obvious and far-reaching. I may not be ready to live in a hut with only the clothes on my back, but I expect to at least be able to open my over-stuffed drawers without yanking on them.

Wish me luck.


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