Am I the only one who is tired of stuff?
I feel like I spend almost all of my time cleaning stuff, cooking stuff, picking stuff up, shopping for stuff, getting rid of old stuff, organizing stuff, tidying stuff, making stuff, rearranging stuff, picking stuff out, nagging my children to clean up their stuff, and on and on.
Even in the blogosphere, there is a lot of talk about stuff. Don’t get me wrong, I love lovely things as much as the next person. I want my children to be well dressed and have clever things to play with. I want my home to be attractive. I’d love a perfect dress right now. But, my goodness there are a lot of blogs devoted to design and shopping. Yes, those melamine plates are cute, but the ones I already have are working just fine. I adore those hip baby shoes, but I can’t quite justify $45 for an infant’s footwear (or $100 for the baby book I just saw on Design Mom!). And, if I get more stuff, I’ll just have to find a place for it, pick it up, put it away, clean it, maintain it….
I don’t want my life to be so much about stuff. I want to spend more time on ideas, people, and meaningful activities.
The thing is, if I try to just ignore the stuff in favor of fun outings, playing games, reading great books, etc., the stuff just grows. I end up with piles of stuff like dirty laundry, dishes, mail, school papers, dust, mislaid toys. Garbage cans overflow. We run out of milk and clean socks. Kids (and husband) start asking for help to find their stuff. Chaos ensues, sometimes in as little as 24 hours. Clearly, ignoring the stuff is not the answer.
I can, as an alternative, focus completely on stuff. I’m up to my elbows in Windex and Comet. I’m devising new organizational schemes. I’m picking out attractive fabrics and housewares. I’m thinking up creative ideas for decorating, gardening, and housekeeping. I’m scrubbing, polishing, and shining. And it’s totally depressing. This is partly because I have young children, who tend to undo everything I do, almost before I’m even finished doing it. It’s also because it is human nature to be hard on ourselves. The closer we get to some measure of perfection, the higher we move our standards. I want my house to be 100% clean and organized at the same time. Immaculate, and perfectly decorated. With clean, perfectly dressed children. But, because I don’t live inside a Pottery Barn catalogue, these just aren’t realistic goals. A stuff-focused existence is also depressing because we don’t place a high value on things like cleaning in our culture. When most of your daily tasks would earn you only minimum wage in the work-world, life feels like drudgery.
So how about it? How can we put our stuff in proper perspective? How do we balance our spiritual nature with our temporal existence? How can we explore our creativity and desire for loveliness in our visual world, yet stay focused on the things that matter more?
My wise and loyal commenters, all 4.5 of you, do you have any ideas? Am I the only one who thinks about things like this? If you had a million dollars, would you spend it all on stuff, or could you figure out a way to use it in a more meaningful way? Would you give up your stuff, even the stuff you really, really like, if it meant you would be happier? In your real life, how have you simplified your stuff so that you can spend more time doing things you really care about?