Thursday, May 30, 2013

Our Stuff Owns Us



Our stuff owns us.

Do not be fooled. We do not own it. It owns us.

We spend our valuable time, money, and life energy obtaining, maintaining, storing, restoring, repairing, and despairing over our stuff.  We want more stuff, better stuff, newer stuff, or different stuff. We get tired of taking care of all of our stuff. We feel overwhelmed when our stuff piles up but we find it hard to cull our stuff. We buy extended warranties to protect our stuff, even as we ourselves go without insurance protection. We hang onto stuff we don't even like because so-and-so gave it to us so we "can't get rid of it". 

The indestructible Silver Swede

If we own a new car or a nice car then we worry about keeping it nice and we feel anguish over that first big scratch in the paint job. I find having newer, nicer stuff is actually a hindrance to good living. Mr. Chanclas and I own a faded, cracked 1991 Volvo station wagon. It is wonderful because it is a very reliable car (it has never left us stranded) and we don't have to worry about scratches or dings (or comprehensive insurance). I don't think twice about driving it down the potholed access road near our house and I don't worry about hail damage or the fact the Mr. Chanclas let Big Sister drive it down the driveway and crash it lightly into a low rock wall. It is a worry-free vehicle. Another example of how crappier-is-better in my book is the lawnmower. When we moved to Austin 11 years ago I bought a used lawnmower for $55. It was a total junker made of parts from other lawnmowers. (Was it a Honda? A Lawnboy? All of the above?) We had it for 10 years before we finally ran it into the ground mowing our 1.3 acres of rocky weeds. Our neighbors offered to let us use their fancy riding mower but we were too afraid we would damage it. So we bought another junker off Craigslist and continue to merrily mow down Johnson grass, chest-high dandelions, small trees, and chunks of limestone.

It’s not just new stuff or fancy stuff that owns us, either. Stuff of any age or quality level can get in our way. Example: family heirlooms or inherited furniture that we really don’t need/want/like but feel obligated to keep. Or unused stuff we can’t bear to get rid of because “what if I need it again someday” OR “just think how much I paid for it”. What we don't realize is that we continue to pay for it just by continuing to own it. We have to make space to store it, take time to clean it or service it, and continue to share our lives with it.

I think I'm over my stuff. I don't need my stuff to be nice or fancy or even (sometimes) fully functional. It just needs to work well enough and not cause me undue grief. When my stuff no longer suits my purpose I like to repurpose it or pass it along. When I need more stuff or different stuff to get a job done I like to scavenge something that will work, repurpose something, or borrow from a friend. I find it harder and harder to pay for stuff these days because so much of what I need just comes my way if I am patient.

How do you feel about your stuff?

8 comments:

  1. Sing it! I'm getting rid of stuff. Feels good.

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    1. A good stuff-purge feels great, doesn't it?

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  2. I live a daily battle with stuff. Thoughts get into my head like: I would feel more content if only my couch wasn't torn to shreds by cats and little humans, or if my bedroom furniture matched I would feel more like a grown up (whatever that even means). I'm not over a lot of my stuff, especially well-made, time tested stuff that improves my daily existence (I'm thinking of a kitchen knife that cost me an arm and a leg, but is the best freaking thing in my kitchen.) But I have yet to find a balance, and spend an inordinate amount of time culling stuff.

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    1. That 6" Wustof knife you gave me is probably my most used and needed tool. I actually have a callus on my right hand I use it so much. I'm all about having a few quality things that really improve quality of life! It's just all that other stuff that drags me down, the stuff I don't use (or use enough).

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  3. what can I tell you if all the things that i can call "mine own" (ha ha) right now are coming from hoarders!! ha ha ha!! hand me downs that work great!!

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  4. I'm over stuff for sure.

    All my "stuff" is now called plants.

    I'm even over my Savers obsession. I have a list and stick to it. Mostly.

    I do trade stuff around. There's a pile on my front bench now that needed to go to someone else: a box that I thought I needed, but I didnt; a big turkey pan thing that my mom gave me that I was afraid to turn down for fear of hurting her feelings; an old clock that kinda works, but not really; a cute lamp that I have NOWHERE to put and keep moving around to make it fit.

    Good good.

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    Replies
    1. I can't say I'm over my thrift-store obsession but at least I've been able to keep myself out of them lately!

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