My first house had three floors, six bedrooms, and two fireplaces. I used to put signs on the doors to remind me of a room’s post-renovation purpose.
It took me two days to clean it.
My second house has two floors, three bedrooms, and no fireplaces. We spend most of our time in three rooms.
It takes me half a day to clean it.
If all goes well, my next house will be less than 40 feet long, one bedroom, and will float. We’ll spend most of our time outside in the cockpit.
I’ll hose it down. Oh, and scrape the barnacles from the hull a few times a year.
Does anyone notice a trend?
Overwhelmed by Stuff
When I moved to Ithaca, I left a lot behind
- a gigantic, mahogany, four-poster bed
- boxes of books
- two large sofas
- silver servingware and art glass dishes
- and the desire to surround myself with lots of things, no matter how pretty.
But I still feel overwhelmed by stuff. Do I really need to keep that photographic paper that came with my last computer printer if I decide to print a pretty picture? Would I miss the books I haven’t cracked open in more than a year? And how do I get rid of clothes too damaged to give away without adding more stuff to the landfill?
Stuff—cleaning it, storing it, disposing of it, and now, writing about it—consumes me.
What can I do? Maybe my dog has an answer.
Rotate Your Toys
I’ve heard from different trainers that I should rotate Honey’s toys—only keep four or five out and swap them with others each week or so. She’ll enjoy them longer and like the surprise of rediscovery.
Honey does show a lot of excitement when an old favorite suddenly reappears. But if I leave everything in a basket she can get to, she plays less. Apparently, some dogs like their toys to be fresh.
One reason people buy lots of stuff is because our brains are wired to appreciate novelty. So maybe we should swap out our toys too?
I have some minor hoarding tendencies. In my past life, I’m sure I was 79-year-old grandmother with thousands of plastic deli containers in her cupboards who always saved the rubber bands that came with broccoli.
But I’m trying not to hoard my toys.
Instead of having thousands of books, I only keep reference books and fiction I’ll read many times. If I buy a new used book, I donate an old one to the library book sale. Instead of buying CDs, I borrow them from the library. Or listen to Pandora.
I used to get bored with my clothing. But now I give myself permission to change my wardrobe many times a year. Because I buy all my clothing used, I can justify the cost—our entire household clothing budget is around $100 for a year. Plus we get the tax deduction for donating clothes back I’ve gotten sick of.
Stuff is a Distraction
For all the time I spend dealing with stuff, I could be writing blog posts, helping others, or formulating a plan to bring peace to the Middle East.
I’m certainly not helping anyone by dusting tchotchkes or moving extra stuff in and out of the attic. Or by obsessing on mental clutter.
Luckily, I live with a Golden Retriever zen master who is always present in the moment and never distracted by stuff.
When Honey is playing with a toy, she’s just playing with a toy. She’s not wondering if another toy in her basket would be more fun.
When Honey is eating, she’s eating. She’s not wondering what she’ll eat later in the day.
And she’s not thinking about stuff.
Maybe I’ll find it easier to pare down to only the items I truly need and appreciate if I think about how happy Honey is with just a few special items. She’d be a great role model.
After all, have you ever seen anyone happier than a Golden Retriever?
Do you enjoy your stuff? Or do you have as tortured relationship with it as I do? And how about your dog? Is he a materialist? Or a zen master?