Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Too Much Stuff

Remember George Carlin's bit on stuff?  How about Delbert McClinton's song about Too Much Stuff?  They were funny because they were true.  I'm not laughing any more.  I'm afraid I'm on the verge of being a hoarder and have decided it's time to get rid of some stuff.  You'll notice I said, "some."  I've got to ease into this gradually.  I've spent the past few days considering what stuff to keep and what stuff to divest myself of.  The process has been shocking.  How on earth did we get so much stuff?  The hardest part is discovering stuff we sure thought we had to have; stuff we haven't even seen for years.

I'm pretty practical on the big ticket items.  A camp trailer for example.  Even though I sold them for a year, I never once considered buying one.  $30,000 for a reasonably modest one.  How many night's could I stay in a in a motel for that?  How many nights could I camp in a tent for that?  How much more gas would I spend dragging it around?  How many places would I hesitate to go while towing my house around behind me?  I couldn't see how it would ever pay for itself in either savings or convenience.  Have you noticed that hotels are handy, right off the interstate.  Campgrounds?  That's another question.  Besides, campgrounds aren't free either.  I look around and see lots of jet skis, campers, boats and other stuff like that taking up space, hardly ever used.  We rented a couple of jet skis once.  They cost $100.00 for a full day's enjoyment.  It would take a lot of days to make one worth buying.

The little stuff, however, is another story.  Somewhere, I have the right dohinky stored away to fix my widget if it ever quits.  Trouble is I couldn't find it when the widget quit so I bought another one.  Only, at Lowe's dohinkies are sold only in blister packs of four, so now I have four.  Three are not stored in the same place as the first one though, so if my widget quits again, I have twice as much chance of finding one next time.  Then there are the movies.  Dozens and dozens on video tape.  I only own them until the VCR quits.  Then I just own a pile of plastic.  Have I learned my lesson?  Nope, now there are dozens on DVD.  Actually, I'm catching on in that case.  Netflix can own them and if (actually a pretty big if) I really do ever want to watch one a second time I can rent it for lots less than buying it and I don't have to keep it anywhere.

We're currently preparing for a huge yard sale.  We want to get rid of some stuff.  The carport and a 7X14 foot enclosed trailer are crammed with stuff we hope to find new owners for.  We're going to sell off our stuff for pennies on the dollar.  In that pile are hundreds of books.  Many I actually read.  I can't bring myself to let go of dozens of others.  I'm trying to keep my collection in line with the number of bookshelves I already possess.  It makes me think a Kindle or Nook, might be smarter.  The books are cheaper, and can all be stored in a place smaller than a book!  A book reader is cheaper than a bookshelf too.  Plus, there's no waiting, no shipping charges, what a deal!

Another pile in the yard sale is that of scrapbooking supplies.  Scrapbooking too, has gone digital.  The photos are digital.  The paper and doodads are all digital.  The punches, stickers, pretty paper, scissors, binders, are all strings of ones and zeros!  What a space saver that is!  Hopefully, someone will show up to the sale who is too old fashioned to scrapbook with a computer.  I wonder if Sweetie would consider digital quilting or crocheting?

I doubt it.  In fact right in the middle of preparing for the yard sale of the century, Sweetie's mother passed to the great beyond.  And, as you can't take it with you, left behind all of her stuff.  The good side is that she had seven children and lots of grandchildren to divvy up all her stuff.  Even so, this week we're trundling home with lots more stuff.  Good thing we were preparing for the yard sale or we'd have had no room for the inflow.  I'm still hoping for a net loss in the volume of stuff.  But, I think we might have to sell some more books and a book case or two so we'll have more wall space for the burgeoning volume of artistic stuff we have to display.

My brother has a friend who is a bona fide hoarder.  His house has a path from the front door to the kitchen with a tributary path to the bedroom and bathroom.  Everywhere else is literally stacked with stuff; clear to the ceiling.  He even shares his bed with stuff.  This is in his new house.  The old house next door was abandoned when some stacks tipped over, eliminating the pathway.  He has never thrown away a milk jug or a newspaper!  I'm not that bad, in fact Sweetie and I fill two large garbage cans nearly every week; with stuff we're tossing out on a regular basis.  So now the landfill is running out of space for stuff.

Most of this stuff is coming here in huge container ships from China.  It could be a communist conspiracy to bury us in stuff!  Meanwhile, it looks like we're trying to bury them back - in money!

A few years ago Randy talked me into accompanying him on a six day 60 mile trip into the Grand Canyon.  I've backpacked considerably and ordinarily carry around 50 to 60 pounds on my back.  Randy insisted that on this trip we were going light.  We sawed off the handles of our tooth brushes and trimmed every ounce from every other item as well.  When we dropped in over the rim Randy was carrying 23 pounds and I was carrying 24.  Included in each of those packs was all the food we'd need for the week, all of our camping and cooking supplies and eight pounds of water.  We looked and acted like we were on a day hike; literally skipping along past backpackers lumbering along with their heavy stuff.  You know, it was the best backpacking experience of my life!  And, I never missed a single thing I left behind!  I'm starting to think I might enjoy life a lot better too; if I were to travel a lot lighter.

Last night on Katie Couric's show she reported of a movement to do just that.  There are people who are attempting to limit their number of possessions to 100 items!  Sounds rather emancipating doesn't it?  Think of it.  Smaller house, smaller rooms, smaller closets, smaller kitchens with fewer cupboards, a garage where you can actually park your car.  I've never dared to enclose my carport for fear that I'd have to park the car outside!  I'm really beginning to subscribe to the statement that says, "We don't own our stuff; our stuff owns us."  Now I'm not going to go that radical on the subject; but I am heading in that direction.

There are some things I'd rather not do without.  I like a bit of memorabilia.  I like a bit of art.  I'm a bit sentimental about things my loved ones have created.  I love the feel and smell of an actual book and I love the look of a bookcase full of them.  I like that my workshop is stocked with tools and I love using them to make stuff.  And here we go again, adding to the problem.

I think my all time favorite movie has to be the Gods Must Be Crazy.  Xi, an African bushman spends the entire movie trying to get rid of stuff.  In his case a coke bottle.  Practically the only material possession of his tribe, the bottle is nothing but trouble.  Part of me wants to be that free of stuff.

Another aspect of the problem is that we all seem to want our own stuff.  So, my neighbor across the street, the ones next door on either side of him and those on either side of me and the guy right behind me, my son-in-law, all have our own chainsaws, I have two!  What is up with that?  We all have our own lawn mowers, and myriad other things.  Wouldn't we all benefit if we could come up with a way to share fewer piles of stuff?  When I was in the Navy, the base had a rental place.  As we were quite nomadic as a group, the military thought it to be to their advantage if we had less stuff for them to move around.  Thus we could go to the base and rent everything from sleeping bags and tents to barbecue grills or chain saws.  As a group we collectively carried around far less stuff.  Maybe there's a lesson we civilians could learn from that.

Perhaps I need more drastic intervention.  Perhaps I need an exorcist.  Obviously, I'm possessed by my possessions.


Utah Mom said...

Great post. So very true. I need to get rid of stuff too (not the books, though). Randy and I are looking at houses in Maine but the thought of actually moving all the stuff is so intimidating. I remember when we were newly weds and could fit all our stuff in a truck to go to NH if we wanted. It is definitely a liberating feeling.

It's a good thing I won't be around for your yard sale. I'm sure I'd have trouble passing on some of those books. I'm not a general hoarder--just a book hoarder or librarian, as I prefer to call it. Good luck with it.

Candleman said...

Utah Mom, are you moving to Maine?

--- said...

Wow I was just thinking this morning about The Gods Must Be Crazy and watching it at your house years ago. Crazy!

Utah Mom said...

We would love to move to Maine. We talk about it and dream about it. But we probably won't. :(

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