Tuesday, January 21, 2014

How Much Stuff is Enough?


Ah - the fashion days are long gone. Entire paychecks disappearing over a weekend? That's been over for a long while. I can now proudly travel with a backpack and toothbrush. I can predict my outfit for tomorrow. I gladly shop in thrift stores and happily accept hand-me-downs. But not everyone is on my boat or traveling my path.

For example, my daughter pores over magazines and her eyes glisten in joy when we are at the mall and buying not one, but three, fancy t-shirts. I remember those days. There's a messy happiness in being young, sitting among a pile of memories and emotions - striking a pose and giggling with moon-eyes over pop stars.

Now I think, how much do I need? What is necessary? Everything else is wasted space or wasted money. Sometimes both.
I liked the urban legend of Steve Jobs wearing only jeans and a black turtleneck everywhere he went. What was important to him was not what he was wearing but what he was doing.  There was a cute cartoon I saw comparing a young adult and a billionaire. For starters, the billionaire had $10 shoes and a $5 t shirt. The young adult had a $300 belt. You get the idea.

However, I should mention that I appreciate fashion as art, too. I would never say that one's passionate work is useless in this world. I saw an amazing installation in New York by Alexander McQueen. What I saw left me speechless and forever changed my view about fashion designers. They can tell stories with their clothes.

What concerns me is not the art, but the expense and the lengths to which people go to purchase, purchase, purchase more and then store their purchases. Comedian George Carlin says, in short, we get bigger houses to store all of our 'stuff' and its ad infinitum. There's a little bit of truth to that.  When is sentimentality just clutter?

My daughter's room is usually filled with toys and items and is often a complete shambles. My brother gave me a wall organizer which helped immensely. Now THAT's brimming with items.  Maybe every three months or so, I can ransack her room and leave with two garbage bags of broken, unwanted, too small items to take to either the trash can or charity. Where is all this stuff coming from?

I was able to put away most of the framed pictures in our house and replace them with collage frames of pictures. The uncluttered living room looks SO much better.

If you really think about it: how many pairs of socks do we need? Maybe a dozen? Underwear? Dress Shirts? Five? Maybe two or three ties and belts. We need likely only about six pairs of shoes, at most. Tennis shoes, three pairs of dress shoes, two pairs of casual shoes? A pair of house slippers and one house coat. Three pairs of pajamas? Maybe just two. Three jeans? Three slacks. Five skirts. Two or three dresses?  Can we get away with less? Each time we do, we are saving money, space and time. It's the concept of the Zero Waste Home, a movement epitomized to me by Bea Johnson.

Our family has three smart phones, an iPad, two desktop computers, and one iTouch. We also have a TV set. Perhaps one day the TV set can be replaced by a desktop and save the space. We are so blessed to say we have these things at all.

I grew up in a house that was rarely cluttered. It had almost an Asian aesthetic with its large, empty spaces. I liked that feeling of freedom of all that space.

I understand my husband's feelings on some things. He finds that certain additions bring warmth and emotion to the home, like pictures or knick knacks or stuff. He agrees with less stuff, though. We are trying to strike a balance.

I wonder occasionally if we really understand how blessed we are to even have the concept of "too much" when so many people have so little.

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