Stuff: Can live with it, can live without it

I can’t get this post from Feministe out of my head. Guest blogger Joy describes how she packed all her stuff for a cross-country move and discovered that she lived just fine without the stuff:

The end result [of packing] was 18 medium sized boxes of items I thought I could not live without. 18 boxes of clothes and dishes and memories that seemed essentially to me being me; my life in 18 boxes.

In the three months since, I’ve left those boxes packed. I’ve lived out of two suitcases and it’s been fine. Are my clothing choices slightly more limited? Yes. Does it really matter? No.

We all have so much stuff that we don’t use or need, but knowing it’s there brings this strange sense of comfort that is both unhealthy and limiting. I recently moved and have several boxes of stuff sitting in storage — boxes that contain momentos, pictures, old notebooks from classes, etc. It’s unhealthy because I can convince myself, “But what if I need XYZ item sometime in the future?” and then keep most stuff. It’s limiting because I put a lot of value in these things, which in turn would be to my detriment if something happened to them, e.g. they were lost or destroyed.

Having these thoughts sparingly isn’t bad, but having them about every single little thing eventually makes you dependent on having things to define your life experiences — souvenirs from trips, decorations for the house, etc. The danger is that instead of just keeping things you already have amassed, you start actively seeking more things to define your life, make you happy, etc.

My mom once wanted to show me my grandma’s wedding dress, but she couldn’t find it because the boxes in our back garage are overwhelming, filled with never-used wedding gifts and lots of other unused, old stuff. Perhaps the key is to, as young people, watch how we collect and buy stuff and try not to place value on everything we come across — simply having the space for stuff doesn’t mean you need to fill it.

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