I have a love/hate relationship with stuff.
Clothes. Books. Kitchen gear. Photographs. Plushies. Craft supplies. Knick-knacks. DVDs. Accessories. Mementos. Bags. Anything that I could potentially use in a classroom someday. Makeup. Pretty things. Useful things.
I’m one of those people who tries to be practical about her stuff. That I don’t want it around unless it is highly useful or beautiful. Hence, my cast iron frying pan and my Hudson’s Bay blanket and my Princess Lasertron bouquet. Examples of high quality, well-made, and lovely things that will last a lifetime if I take good care of them.
So…if I subscribe to the “useful and beautiful” rule, then why am I looking at a small collection of toys sitting on top of a bookshelf? Among other things, there’s a My Little Pony, a Keropi Happy Meal Toy, and two Fisher Price cows. A Pooch Patrol dog named Sarge sits about the computer. There is a turtle from a Kinder Surprise in the bathroom, alongside two plastic goldfish pilfered from the treasure box at Pizza Delight.
Memories are powerful things. It’s hard to let go of something that serves no purpose when you have a strong emotional attachment to the object in question. These little trinkets and tokens come to represent feelings, thoughts, good days, events, or people. I have gotten better at not hoarding items like these, but it’s hard not to collect, and it’s even more difficult to discard. Time can be a great helper…or a great enemy. The little stuffed lady bug that my high school boyfriend gave to me when I fell down a flight of stairs? It’s been almost ten years, girl! Why are you still carrying that thing around?!?! The aforementioned Kinder Surprise turtle? You’ve had her since you were nine. You wouldn’t have kept her if she wasn’t important. She stays.
And there are two of us in this one-bedroom apartment (with decent, but still limited storage). Two people with memories and feelings and attachments, two people with their own hobbies and interests and needs.
One married couple, lots of stuff.
We do pretty well at making regular donations to the Salvation Army. We simply don’t have the space for extras, so a purge has to be made every few months. I also grew up in a house where this was the norm-I don’t think a month went by where my family didn’t make a donation to the Diabetes Association or MS Society or whatever organization was collecting at the time. I also enjoy giving my things to people who appreciate them-you like this sweater? It’s yours! I have given away many possessions as birthday or Christmas or “just because” gifts, and I feel good about it. It gave me joy, and now it can give someone else joy.
(I also have no qualms about re-gifting, although there is the paranoia that somehow the gift in question might make its way back to its original owner…but I’m willing to take that risk.)
Jason has slowly come on board with my constant need to de-clutter and donate. It hasn’t been easy for him, but he has come a long way since we first got together four years ago. I have a memory of piling all his t-shirts on the bed and counting them-the number was in the sixties. Today? Ten. We still disagree about what to keep and what to toss-I know tomorrow there will be an argument about a certain set of black towels that I cannot stand. But for the most part, he’s with me in the quest to rid our house of stuff.
Marriage typically brings more stuff. Some of it is wonderful-I’m thinking of our bed. My parents bought the frame and mattress. Other people bought sheets with luxurious thread counts, cozy blankets, and hypoallergenic pillows. Other people bought us things…that we didn’t really want or need. The thought was there, but like a bad relationship, it just wasn’t working out. Some of those things have been re-gifted, stolen by my sisters, donated, or sold. A few things still remain in my parents’ basement until we have more space.
Then there’s the stuff that people say we “need”, often without asking us if we really need it. I apparently “need” a set of tea towels for every major holiday. I “need” a bathmat and one of those silly fabric shower curtains. I “need” an electric kettle. Um, thanks? What I need right now is an immersion blender, a small one-up coffeemaker, and one of those over-the-toilet storage units. I know people have the best of intentions here, but this is a battle-against-the-stuff I would rather not wage. I don’t mind donating my things, but I dislike doing it when there’s guilt involved. I don’t like the sensation that I am wasting someone’s money. I don’t like feeling like an ungrateful brat. Why did you buy me those sheets?!?! I told you, no man-made fibers, it HAS TO BE COTTON!!! Can’t we just avoid this messy situation? Ask what I like, what I want, what I need. And then listen. Or you don’t have to give me anything at all. That’s okay. I’m an adult.
I’m an adult…and I’m about to have a baby.
Babies involve a whole new mess of stuff.
I’m not so sure we can win this battle. But until then, I’m going to donate and give and toss what I can…and pray the upcoming avalanche is manageable.