The NBC Nightly News had a story last week about a number of women who were going through their closets, attics, garages, and yes… even the regular living spaces of their homes to clear out clothes, knick knacks, furniture and yes… even their extra shoes… that they are just now coming to realize that they don’t actually need.
Personally, it sounded a little chauvinistic to me to have a story about women who were turning over a new leaf from their materialistic ways, and downsizing their stuff collections, but maybe I’m just the overly-sensitive manly-man looking to defend some women in a world where men can be and are rather materialistic as well. That… or maybe I saw a lot of me in all those ladies, and I was wondering where the dude was in the story whom I could identify with…? Hmmm.
From my own perspective, I have to admit thatI have a lot of stuff. I mean A LOT of it. And I should know of course… because even if there had been a point where I may have forgotten how much stuff I have accumulated due to being able to accumulate it slowly while finding great places to store it all away… this last weekend… I was forced into the unfortunate circumstance of having to move it all… which subsequently reminded me… just in case I had forgotten… just how much stuff I actually have.
And let me be clear. Yes, I am married. Yes, we have an 8-month-old son who we’ve started collecting crap for. But beyond the collective stuff, which any family collects, I’ve personally got a TON of stuff.
To give you a hint, let’s start with the tools. I have a tool chest, with another tool chest on top of that one, with another tool chest on top of that one. Besides all the tools that fit within the stacked tool chests (making them almost impossible to move), I have a large number of tools that DON’T fit within the tool chests, which of course must then be moved independently of the chests. I have power saws, power drills, cordless drills, cordless saws. A bench grinder. A bench vice. A Dremel (with numerous attachments). I have enough shop lights to heat an entire house without need of a furnace. Not that I would need to, though. I also have an industrial kerosene jet engine heater. And a portable industrial a/c unit to cool down a space if it gets too hot. I have an air compressor so I don’t have to go to the gas station to air up the tires or in case of getting a flat in the garage. I have a pressure washer to wash… what… exactly? I can’t remember. Oh yeah, I used to have a house with a deck that was about the size of the house that we live in now. Wait let me clarify that… the DECK was as big as my current house. Overkill, certainly, but it warranted a pressure washer. But now that we’re downsizing I guess I can wash the cars with it now? I have an industrial paint sprayer. I have an acetylene cutting torch. I have an arc welder. I have a generator… just in case I need to arc weld when the power goes out in a hurricane, which I hear are common in Louisiana. I have a lawn mower of course. And edger. And weed eater. And leaf blower. And vacuum shredder with blower attachment and mulching bag. I have shovels. Rakes. A tree trimmer. I have a plant hole digger. And a post hole digger. I’m ashamed to know the difference. And let’s not forget the sporting equipment. Golf clubs. Tennis racquets. Volleyball nets (two of them). Softball equipment. My own paintball gear. Soccer guards with cleats. Dive gear. Etc., etc., etc. Oh yeah… and I have enough deck furniture to seat 14 comfortably, with a matching portable bar that can serve all 14 seated (and probably 40 additional standing) guests cool frosty beverages without having to go into the house. Oh… and a propane mosquito killer so people don’t get eaten while we’re not going into the house.
And that’s just the garage and patio area.
Because if we were to actually move into the house… so as to make a list of all my house crap… I might really start to get embarrassed. To give you a hint… I now have more clothes than my wife does. It’s shameful, I know.
And I was reminded of having all this stuff this weekend, because… as I said… I was placed into the circumstance of having to move it all. Thank goodness it was a short move. Less than 2 miles. We rented a 26′ truck from U-Haul for the job. It’s the biggest one they have. We loaded it up 5 times. FIVE TIMES! Granted, we didn’t pack it properly, only utilizing the floor space, but COME ON…! That’s like saying I only utilized the floor space of a tractor trailer 2.5 times to move our family of 2.1 people.
And so this weekend… as I was forced to move all the stuff I hadn’t touched for a year and a half or more (which I am still being reminded of yesterday and today with the sore muscles, aches and pains)… some of which hasn’t been touched in 5 years or more… still in boxes from the LAST move… and as I was contemplating the unpacking of it all… again… I think it finally hit me.
I don’t own all this stuff. It owns me!
And before you jump to your thoughts that this type of reality only materializes when you have to actually move your stuff. The truth is that this reality exists every minute of every day that I exist with this amount of stuff in my life.
Just think about it for a second.
First, how much did I spend to buy it all? Ouch! Then it costs me more money to insure it all. And it requires me to secure a larger living space to be able to store it all. Then through indirect costs it ties me down and inhibits me from being able to pack up and go do something meaningful for the people in a third world country. Or from taking a job in Europe. And of course, whenever I move in the States… all my stuff has to go with me, creating more headaches, more costs, more muscle aches and pains, and in reality… perpetuating the slavery.
So this last Sunday… as I unloaded the last of the crap that I have somehow collected over the years of higher income, I made a pact with myself. I’m going to get rid of it. Not all of it, or course. I’m not going total minimalist. I’ll keep the flat screen and electronics. But the simple fact is that I don’t need all this crap. In fact I don’t need hardly any of this stuff. Do I really need an alto saxophone that I’ll never learn to play? Do I really need 30 dress shirts? Do we really need dishes to seat 12? I’d be happy drinking Thanksgiving wine out of a paper cup. So really, it’s all unnecessary.
Realistically, what I need is just as much stuff as is required to help others with their spiritual path. That’s it. No more. No less. If I’m going to do this, I’m going to do it with every part of my existence, including whatever stuff I surround myself with.
So… a drastic change in my owned items list is coming. Basically, I think the line I’m going to draw in the sand is that if it doesn’t help the grand plan of what my (our – my family’s) life is TODAY in some way… not what it was yesterday… or what it could be tomorrow… but if it doesn’t serve an immediate purpose for what life is TODAY… it’s gone. Outta here. Hasta la pasta. And I mean it.
Not only am I never again going to move something that isn’t getting used, I’m not going to own and waste the utility of things that could be getting use by someone else. NBC ladies… I’m with you! I’m getting rid of it! It’s not fair to the universe that I waste not only the potential worth of my time, but it’s equally not as fair to waste the time of the stuff that’s getting neglected and ignored that could be put to good use.
So what do you think? How much stuff do you have? Do you have stuff you think you should get rid of? And will you?
Remember… you may think you own your stuff… but in reality… it actually owns you.
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