7 January 2016

Why Do We Have So Much Stuff?

I'm running out of room. Something has to go.
When putting away the Christmas decorations yesterday, I was struck by just how much stuff we have acquired in the almost 10 years we've been in our current home. It feels like it fills every spare corner of the house and garage. Not in a hoarder like fashion, but with a chaotic organization that we alone can understand. It isn't messy or dirty, it just sort of sits there.
I do downsize from time to time. Using the internet to sell some of the better items we no longer need and failing that we donate it to local charities. I go to the dump with the stuff that is broken or just plain worn out. But it seems we still have so much.
Some things survive the purges because of sentimental value or the fear that maybe I'll need that later. I know we all probably have those items that we just can't part with because it may prove useful in the future and we take it from place to place, never actually needing it. Our crawlspaces are full of things we cannot let go of and don't know why.
I have an old bottle of Orange Crush I found when I was a kid and I've taken it with me as I've moved all my life. It has been wrapped and packed 11 times in the last 24 years and serves very little purpose except I liked the design when I was a young boy and can't toss it out. It sits in a box somewhere. That's just silly.
There are things in totes that haven't seen the light of day in more than a decade and yet are important enough to survive the big spring and fall cleanings we do every year. Lugging them from their spots under the stairs or on shelves in the garage, checking the contents and then putting them back is a semi-annual ritual we keep alive. That seems ludicrous.
I don't want to imply that we should toss stuff with true sentimental value. If something is dear to your heart because of a love one or a cherished memory, then by all means that is treasure to you and not junk. The stuff I am referring to is those items that exist in a halfway zone between useful and useless. Old kitchen gadgets, knick knacks that collect dust and only get moved to put out the holiday stuff or any myriad of "vintage" consumer electronics that seem to clutter our basements. These are the things that need to go. We can downsize without going to extremes. It is possible to find space for cherished objects while still getting rid of stuff that no longer fits who we are.
I cannot even begin to imagine what my friends and family with children must go through. Having witnessed the influx of new things at Christmas makes me wonder where it all goes, given how much they already seem to have. Most parents have a good grasp on what their kids play with and are very active in keeping the toy room at acceptable levels of stuff. Many make it a life lesson with the child helping to decide what they want to keep and then teaching them the value of donating it to those less fortunate. Good stuff to teach your kids, but I bet they hang on to some things just because.
Most of us live in a pretty affluent community. By this I mean we are not living in the slums of Calcutta or subsistence farming in Africa. We live in the west and even at my lowest point, I never worried that I would starve to death.  Don't get me wrong, I know people right here in Canada live in substandard conditions and have real worries about food, but I am lucky that those I love have places to live and enough to survive. Poverty is a real problem and I wish it could be different. Consider yourself lucky and blessed to live the life we do. We might not be in the 1%, but we are better off than most of the world. Struggling with bills, repairs and the unexpected costs of life are commonplace among us, but no one is homeless and we all know we can rely on each other for support if things go bad. So when I talk about stuff and its accumulation, I understand it is by definition a First World problem.
So let's make 2016 the year we try to get a grip on our homes. Look around and be critical.
Do you really need it?
Does it serve a purpose?
Why do you want it?
What does it make you feel?
I want to be relentless in my pursuit of making my life simpler. I don't want to lug around bins of useless junk every time I clean the garage and neither do you. Part of reclaiming my life is making space for new memories and things. As I begin to venture forth from Polkaroo Manor, I will undoubtedly purchase brewery related souvenirs. Branded glassware is my most likely target and if I want to display them, I need room. I hope I won't buy anything to put in a box and stick under the basement stairs. that would defeat my whole purpose. So I will make a real effort to get rid of stuff that I have outgrown or that simply just needs to go.
My shelves are filled with "collectible" beer bottles, that has to stop. I only have so much room and cannot keep every new beer I try. This will prove difficult because I want to keep any unique design or label I find. Perhaps I can find a middle ground. I have pictures of each brew and it might be time to print them out, get some frames and display them on the wall at Merle's (more on my home "bar" another time). I'll keep the ones that are really awesome and if I find one that I want to add, a different one will have to go.
 The basement and crawlspace will be next on my list and I promise to be ruthless in downsizing. If it is covered in dust and hasn't seen the light of day in the last year, maybe it is time to go.
 The garage is organized for the winter and I have no desire to spend days in there purging things while the mercury cruises to minus temperatures. But when spring rolls around, I will load up the Jeep with the stuff that does nothing for us anymore and off to the dump I will go.  I have big plans for a home brewing station and workshop in there, so useless junk that is in the way will have to go if I want to have enough space.
Lofty goals inspire me to accomplish things. I have set the bar so low for so many years that the slowly building momentum of reclaiming my life seems to be moving at a more rapid pace than it really is. I try not to revert to a shell of anxiety and fear as I downsize and get rid of stuff. I can see the light of day approaching and I want our home to be a reflection of who we are and a place where all are welcome.
Now if I can just find the Crush bottle.


  1. This post really spoke to me in so many ways. Great read. Thanks for the inspiration.

    1. I thank you again for reading. I enjoy writing and when someone gets something out of it, it makes me so happy. My thanks again!

  2. This post really spoke to me in so many ways. Great read. Thanks for the inspiration.