Somewhere in between cleaning out my dad’s house, watching my next door neighbors move (leaving behind bins overflowing with trash) and organizing my mom’s move out of her condo (working against the clock to get all her things out of there), I stumbled upon my New Year’s resolution. And, it’s not just a resolution for this year, it’s a resolution that I want to keep for the rest of my life – I resolve to not have too much stuff.
Really, we all have so much stuff – and it’s not just the hoarders of the world. Though wow, if you haven’t checked out “Hoarders” on A & E it’s strangely fascinating, or “creepy and repulsive” if you listen to my husband. No, it’s not “those people” I’m talking about. They have a psychological problem. The rest of us, we just have an overconsumption problem.
Instead of paring down or getting rid of stuff, we spend more money on bins to organize our stuff, fill our garages with so much stuff we have to park our cars in the driveway, and even rent storage units to keep all the stuff that doesn’t fit in our houses or garages. When you think about it, it’s crazy. All of this reminds me of one of my favorite George Carlin sketches. You’ve probably seen this, but it’s worth another viewing – just make sure the kiddos are out of the room, because, you know, it’s George Carlin.
We do have a kind of fascination with our stuff. But here’s the thing about stuff: as the saying goes, “you can’t take it with you.” After cleaning out the belongings of two family members I realize how true that cliché is. One thing I’m always going to think about when I acquire something new is, “when I die, my kids will have to figure out what to do with this item. Do I really want to do that to them?” This may sound kind of morbid, but if you’ve ever had this experience, you know what I mean.
So the first part of my resolution is to not buy stuff that I don’t need. If I do need something, I’m going to look first to borrow it, then to find it second hand, and only as a last resort, to buy it. I mean really, we don’t all need table saws. We have neighbors who have those sitting around collecting dust in their garage. Take your wood down to their house and cut it – for that one project you will ever need a table saw for – yes, I speak from experience here. The second step of my plan is to get rid of the stuff I already have, which admittedly, is too much stuff. Here’s my new rule – if I don’t find it beautiful or useful, I’m getting rid of it – even if it has sentimental value, even if my mom is going to make me feel guilty for getting rid of it, even if I’m sure I’m going to fix it one day, it’s going. And not only does buying , storing, organizing and consuming less stuff make my life easier, it’s probably one of the greenest things I can do; which reminds me of another of my favorite videos about stuff, “The Story of Stuff”. I’ve posted it before, but it’s worth another viewing – or, if you haven’t seen it, really I think its required viewing.
Happy 2011! I wish you a new year with more experiences to boost your spirits and less stuff weighing you down.