Photo courtesy of morguefile.com
Over the past few weeks, Mark and I have been having a rather important and time-consuming discussion. This discussion hasn’t been about the kids or his career. Not about world affairs or the local news. Nope, we’ve lost hours of our lives talking about…our stuff. Yes, that’s right. Our stuff. Now please understand that we don’t normally spend so much time thinking about our belongings, which in retrospect could be how we ended up with so much stuff in the first place. It still amazes me that after moving as many times as we’ve moved, we’ve still have so much stuff! And here’s the really sad part, we don’t even use all of it.
For example, we have lived in our current home for almost two years and there are still dozens of packed boxes in our garage. These boxes sit in our garage, not because we don’t have time to unpack them but because, quite frankly, I don’t know where to put all the stuff that’s packed inside of them. That, by itself, is a sure sign that we simply have too much. Too much furniture, too many mementos, too much…stuff. And that would be bad enough, if those boxes were our only unused belongings. But sadly, there is more.
When we moved here two years ago, we stored a few things behind Pittsburgh. Not much really…just a desk. And a large buffet table. And there’s also a ping pong table…a couch…an armoire. Wait, did I mention a piano? And oh yes…more boxes. Now, in our defense, we moved from a fairly large house to a much smaller one. We told ourselves that we were only renting this smaller house and maybe, (hopefully?) we would eventually move into a bigger house again and then we would be able to use all those things. That doesn’t sound too ridiculous, right?
Anyway, once we realized we would be moving this summer, we began to consider and evaluate our stuff. Most recently, Mark and I have been talking about our Pittsburgh stuff. Specifically, what do we do with it? How do we get it all here? And when do we move it here? Do we move this stuff down here now so it’s already here, or do we wait until we move to our new place this summer and then go back to Pittsburgh and get it? And the biggest question of all…will any of it even fit into our next home, which will probably be close in size to our current home.
The more we talked about it, the more confused we became and the more frustrated we felt. And then we asked ourselves this question: Why are we holding on to this stuff? We haven’t used any of it for two years, and haven’t really noticed its absence. What if we just get rid of it. Yes, that’s right. Get rid of it. Get rid of anything we can’t use and/or won’t fit a home roughly the same size as our current one. Get rid of anything we never really liked in the first place. Get rid of the old baby stuff we’ll never use again and the boxes of who-knows-what that I’ve been saving for God-knows-when. Sell it, give it away, donate it…and I’m fairly certain that there are things that just need thrown away.
At first, the idea sounded drastic. But the more we talked about it, the better it sounded. Because the sheer amount of stuff we have is simply weighing us down. We aren’t holding on to most of this stuff because it’s useful, or even because we love it so much that we can’t bear to part with it. We’re holding on to it because of what it represents. In some cases, these belongings represent the past. High chairs and cribs remind me of when the kids were smaller. Getting rid of them is acknowledgement that our family is forever past the baby years. In other cases, we’ve held on to belongings in hopes that they would work “someday.” We’ve been holding onto a rather large beautiful wooden desk for over a decade. It looks like the perfect desk. Lots of drawers, beautiful finish. But it’s heavy and awkward, too big for practical use in most of the homes we’ve lived in. We are in love with the idea of it rather than the reality of it. As we considered each belonging, we realized that most weren’t useful or practical. And in some cases, they were things we didn’t enjoy or even like anymore. So why exactly were we keeping them?
As soon as we made the decision to get rid of stuff, I felt instantly better. It was as though a heavy weight had been lifted from my shoulders. Sometimes holding on to stuff holds us back. Once again, it comes down to the question of intention. It’s not enough to simply hold on to something because it’s familiar, or sentimental, or because of sheer inertia. Whatever we have in our lives should serve a real purpose. Because if we aren’t careful, we can easily fill up our homes and lives with useless, meaningless stuff, leaving no room for the things that really matter.
And so Mark and I are beginning the long process of ridding ourselves of stuff that no longer makes sense in our lives. We are asking the tough questions: “Do we love it?” and “Can we use it?” We are letting go of the things that no longer fit our home or our lives. I won’t lie…it’s not an easy task. But I feel lighter already.