There's Downsizing, and De-cluttering--Why Not Just Get Rid of Everything?
Does an average family own literally a ton of stuff?
Posted March 16, 2010
"Stuff is sticky," my hoarder friend tells me as she struggles to de-clutter her house.
I don't share my friend's compulsion to collect, but I know what she means.
I've collected my fair share of knickknacks and furniture and books and paintings over the years, and I've assigned each artifact its sentimental and utilitarian value.
As we've been getting ready to move over the past few weeks, I started downsizing--taking this and that to the Goodwill. Putting furniture and too-small clothes and gifts from old lovers out on the curb. Each time I chose the items I'd get rid of, I felt that sticky attachment. Should I really let this go? But it hardly ever took more than a day or two for me to forget all about the once-coveted possession.
I thought I'd gotten rid of a lot. I was down to the basics. And then three days ago, the movers showed up and took it all away. All my sticky stuff. Some 2,000 pounds of it.
I stared at the weight estimate on the mover's paperwork. Two thousand pounds of...what?
"It's not much for a family," the mover assured me. But it seemed like plenty. A literal ton.
To save money, we'd decided to piggy back on another family member's move--so the stuff went off ahead of us. My partner and our toddler and I would stay in the now-empty house for another month.
As the truck pulled away, I surveyed what was left for us: A couple of broken chairs, an old kitchen table, a few changes of clothes for each of us, three mess kits, a pot and a skillet, a box of toys and Max's tricycle, another empty box that would serve as a coffee table, a laptop, and a double mattress on the floor.
"How can we live here?" my partner protested.
"It's just like a nice squat," I offered. "Or camping?"
Sometimes my partner acts like she never lived in a tree house.
When my mom and stepdad moved out of my childhood home--which had also been my stepdad's childhood home--they had a massive yard sale.
My stepdad sold his Christening gown, sold his mother's wedding dress, sold our beautiful old piano, sold books and clothes and dishes and dolls from every phase of our lives.
At the end of the day, my stepdad looked exhausted. He was 82 years old, held just a box of cash now.
"How are you doing?" I asked him. I figured he'd already feel nostalgic for the thousands of pounds of possessions he'd acquired and let go.
But he just sighed and shook his head. "Finally," he laughed, "we're rid of all that crap!"
To him, stuff was never sticky.
Sometimes my toddler son reminds me of my stepdad. He was emotional when he saw all of his things being carried out to the moving truck. "What's happening?" he kept asking.
But as soon as the truck was out of sight, Max had an idea: He'd ride his tricycle around inside the house! Suddenly there was nothing he could run into. "I'm a funny boy," he bragged as he peddled through the living room.
The first day living without all the things that I was used to was awkward: I wanted an oven dish to roast some yams. I missed the Levi's I shouldn't have sent ahead. I needed a better chair so I could sit at the table and write my blog.
But by day two I was beginning to enjoy the new minimalism. One can roast vegetables in a skillet. My corduroys are comfortable. And I'm getting used to sitting on the floor.
This morning I woke up feeling like a traveler in my own house. And I liked it. There's a freedom to getting unstuck from all our sticky stuff. And I think--maybe it wouldn't be so bad if the movers lose it all on the way.