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.