Sunday, August 26, 2012

Too Much Stuff

“She has far too much stuff for the size of her living space.  I don’t know where we are going to put all of it.  There are just so many boxes and she can’t seem to let any of it go.”

This somewhat frustrated statement was said by my father over lunch while discussing my grandmother’s recent move to a new assisted living facility.  She has moved four times in the past seven years:  from a moderate sized three bedroom home, to a two bedroom apartment, to a one bedroom apartment in a retirement community and finally to her current independent assisted living facility.  Each move included a downsize in bedrooms, storage and general square footage of living space and so each move involved a resorting of possessions to determine what was precious enough to keep.

I pointed out that he lived in a very large house, much larger than my grandmother’s when this series of moves began, and that if he were to try to move into a space the size of the apartment she now resides in he’d too find he had far too many possessions.  I mentioned that I thought we humans tend to accumulate stuff according to the size of our living space.  Maybe it’s some left over instinct to gather and save as much as we can during times of plenty in order to be prepared for times of famine, but whatever the reason we seem to be almost compelled to fill up every corner.  Of course the problem is that, unlike food, stuff isn’t doesn’t get used up…so we just keep on accumulating.

Now, I’m not making this observation from the back of any high horse.  I look around my living space and there is an overwhelming amount of evidence that I have TOO MUCH STUFF.  The mound of laundry piled up in my bedroom which, because I have so many clothes, has been sitting unwashed for longer than I care to admit.  Or the cupboard full of enough cups, mugs and dishes that, if eating alone, I could go nearly an entire week without washing a single coffee cup, glass or dish.  Or the stacks of fashion magazines that I will one day utilize to make an epic collage.  Or the twenty reusable shopping bags hanging in my closet which I have never once taken to the grocery store all at the same time.

I think about the times in my early twenties that I moved across the country and only took what would fit in the trunk and back seat of my car.  Through epic yard sales and round after round of giving things away, I would cull my belongings down until they fit into the required space yet each time I returned I was towing a U-Haul trailer. 

I currently live in an apartment that is just over 600 square feet plus a small storage space in the basement.   This small space manages to contain a comfortably sized living area, a tiny bedroom, small kitchen, a bathroom and two large closets.  Prior to moving here I lived in a 1,200 square foot, two bedroom apartment with a dining room, moderate sized kitchen, living room, bathroom, minimal closet space and a storage space twice the size of what I have now.  When I moved I sorted through all of my stuff to get rid of the things I’d no longer have room to keep.  During this great sorting I came across boxes of things my hands had not touched in years.  Including one box that, during the entire time I lived in that apartment, I’d never unpacked.  It was full of things I’d thought important enough to keep and yet they were not important enough for me to ever question where the missing items were.

I think a lot of the stuff I keep is like that.  Things I don’t want to let go of for sentimental or ‘might be useful one day’ reasons.  If I have the room to keep in somewhere, in the back of a closet, under the bed or in a storage unit, I will hang on to it for as long as I can; especially if I forget that I even have it. 

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