It’s Just Stuff

My possessions have been under pretty close scrutiny in 2019. In a blog earlier this year, Minimalism, My Journey Begins, I mentioned my goal to purge one item a day for the entire year. And while that didn’t exactly happen – I made it until sometime in March – I did purge a lot of things. I continue to reduce my belongings, and I definitely look at Stuff differently.

I have a weird relationship with Stuff.  I don’t like to shop, but I like to buy things.  (Amazon.com is the devil!)  I don’t like clutter, but I believe you can’t have too many pillows, blankets and books within reach of the couch.  I like owning copies of my favorite books, movies, and TV shows.  I enjoy getting new and more holiday decorations.  I also feel burdened by my possessions, and I feel the pull of a minimalist lifestyle.    

I did not read Tidying Up by Marie Kondo, but I did watch her Netflix series which was interesting and helpful in my endeavor to purge and reduce the number of things I own.  (Although I still have not found joy in folding clothes the way she recommends.)  Using the quantifier of ‘Does it spark joy?’ when I evaluate an item on the chopping block, I’ve been able to get rid of more Stuff than I even realized I had.  I still have a long way to go.

When I was a kid, I was encouraged to be a collector.  My dad started collecting postage stamps when he was a young boy and was a lifelong philatelist.  As an adult, his interest branched out into tobacco tins, coins, and eventually antiques and collectibles.  I started out with a charm bracelet and a mug collection.  Every summer vacation was an opportunity to add to one or the other.  Oh, and I collected Bradley Dolls for a while.  Actually, I didn’t really intend to collect Bradley Dolls.  We had a family friend that gave me one every time he visited, and even though I didn’t need or want them, I found I had quite a collection of them in the 1970s.

I don’t really understand Stuff.  People spend a lifetime accumulating Stuff, and then when they die, someone is tasked with the job taking on, or dispersing, said items.  Even folks that don’t consider themselves accumulators often have more than they realize.  You kitchen people know who you are.  Crockpots, Instant Pots, Ninjas, Bullets, blenders, roasters, mixers, processors, vaporizers…  I’m not a kitchen person so I can’t really relate to those items.  But suffice it to say I wish I would have invested in self-storage in the 1990s.  According to Wikipedia, one in ten U.S. households currently rents a self-storage unit.

A personal experience changed the way I view sentimental items.  Several years after my dad died, my mom gave me his wedding ring.  It was a simple plain gold band, but Dad was very proud of it and what it symbolized.  I wore in on the second finger of my right hand for years and it was a constant reminder to me of what a wonderful man he was and how much his marriage and his family meant to him.  One day while I was making the bed, I realized it wasn’t on my hand.  I literally lost my breath.  I searched everywhere for it, retracing my path over and over and calling every store and establishment I had visited the previous week to check if someone had found it and turned it in.  I cried for three days.  It was a devastating event, and although the ring was clearly irreplaceable, I eventually decided to purchase a replica.  I wear it every day and it is the sentiment and symbolism that is important.  It reminds me constantly of an honorable man who loved his family with his whole heart.

And what about items we save for special occasions?  I’ve come to the conclusion that there is no joy to be found in keeping items in a box or a closet waiting for a special occasion or an opportunity to pass them on to someone else.  If I like it, I use it.  If I don’t use it, I move it along.  (That’s a nice euphemism for ‘get rid of it.’)  Grandma’s china.  A coffee mug from The Strand.  A discontinued perfume that reminds me of my mom.  Too many times I’ve worried about breaking it, wearing it out or using it up.  If that happens, so be it.  It “died” in the service for which it was intended. 

I don’t have any monetarily valuable jewelry.  I have the aforementioned ring, two necklaces (one that was my mom’s and one my husband gave me) and a mother’s birthstone ring my mom often wore.  Despite how much these pieces mean to me, I refuse to leave them in the protective safety of my drawer.  I wear them – A LOT – and if they become lost or damaged I am determined that I will focus on the memory of them and how much I enjoyed wearing them. 

My son graduated from college this spring.  Although he has lived away from home for four years, his bedroom here at our house appears to be occupied.  This past weekend he moved his Stuff ‘home’ from his one bedroom apartment.  It’s been a test of my KonMari Method skills.

A couple weeks before the big move, he came home and we went through EVERYTHING in his bedroom.  We weeded out clothes and books, and sorted through papers and memorabilia.  Occasionally he would turn to me holding up an item.

Son:  Does this spark joy?

Me:  Not for me.  What about you?

Son:  It was a gift from a friend.  Someone spent money on this to give it to me.

Me:  Do you want it?

Son:  No.

Me:  Thank it for its service and put it in the donate box.

Back at his apartment he sorted through his Stuff by himself as he packed.  I received a text from him.  “You know, Dad and I give you a hard time, but this ‘if it doesn’t bring joy’ thing works fairly well.” 

My son has made some great progress and my own individual endeavor continues.  The Beanie Babies are gone.  My Cabbage Patch Kid has been kicked from the nest.  (Good luck on your next venture, Vernon Kendrick.)  Books, kitchenware, VHS tapes, linens and much wall art and Knick knacks are gone.  I couldn’t part with the Care Bears yet.  They stay to fight in the next purge.  Is anybody in the market for some Precious Moments figurines or Bionicles? 

Miles to go before I sleep.  – Robert Frost

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