Monday, May 19, 2008

Drowning In It

Mixed feelings about the young idealists giving away all their stuff. On the one hand, they come across as somewhat ridiculous and naive, though such articles tend to make people seem worse than they are, so we can't assume they're really like that. On the other hand, I have been cleaning out the attic in preparation for the contractors, and I am simply disgusted with the amount of stuff we have.

I have often lived with very little--not that I have given up my stuff, but that I have not had it with me. Last summer, E and I lived in a tent with a week's worth of clothes apiece, a bag of toys, a shelf of books, a box of miscellany, two beds, a laundry basket, and an Adirondack chair. We had everything we needed (someone else cooked).

When the whole family went to London for several months in 2004, we brought a suitcase full of clothes for each of us, and a fifth suitcase with toys, books, and miscellany (you know, lotion and umbrellas and all that). S bought a cheap guitar when we arrived. We lived in someone else's house, so there were dishes and sheets and blankets and toys, but, truly, I did not miss a single belonging we had left behind in No Longer Red State. I didn't even mind having only two skirts and three pairs of pants.

Our downstairs neighbor is having a yard sale and asked if we wanted to join her. I hate yard sales, both having them and going to them. Actually, I can't say I hate having them, because I've never had one, because I hate the idea so much. All that work, and I can't imagine you get enough money--at least for the kinds of things we would have to sell: outgrown shoes and toys (alas, we'll won't sell the books, through really we should). And going to yard sales just means bringing home other people's discarded stuff, which inevitably becomes your own unnecessary stuff. But when she asked me if I wanted to join the yard sale, I said, can I turn the house upside down and shake, and sell everything that falls out?!

Donating, I'm all about donating. I've already gotten rid of three big trash bags of clothes and shoes, and there are three smaller bags of hand-me-downs waiting to go to C (sorry, Dawn, I don't think the hand-me-downs are going to fit Madison anymore). Toys are next. Then there are the heaps of paper and projects and scraps and threads and beads. Alas, they fill the house in drifts, like a Laura Ingalls Wilder blizzard, only Laura would never have had so much stuff, she would have finished the projects and knitted the sweaters and turned the scraps into rugs and the ends of bread into coffee and breadsticks for the fire.

We are of the generation of consumption and waste, whatever our greenly politically correct leanings, and so the stuff keeps coming, stuffing itself into corners and piles and attics, until we have to get rid of it, and then it just comes some more.

I miss my tent.


landismom said...

Yeah, we have a ridiculous amount of stuff, and I am sometimes disgusted by it too. I have learned to be disciplined about the papers coming home from school, but that's because my dh is a lifelong paper hoarder, and would never throw any away if I didn't do it the minute it walks into the house!

Lauren said...

My husband and I have been meaning to get to the attic for a while. See, when we moved we had a newborn and didn't take the time to get rid of things first. Then when we moved and saw all the junk we had we thought we'd have a yardsale. We never got around to that, so I've just been donating bags and boxes here and there. Sometimes, though, I think people donate things that shouldn't be donated, but thrown away or recycled somehow. Someone told me she donated a broken leappad to a thrift store. That is ridiculous, who would want to buy that? Also, that is deceptive. Some places, like Good Will, really make sure everything electronic works, but not all thrift stores do. I prefer thrift store shopping to yard sale shopping. It's kind of uncomfortable looking through people's belongings while they sit there watching you.