The question is: “Why do we have so much stuff?” I have heard that question from friends and relatives facing a move, and we ask that question of ourselves when entering the garage, opening a closet, opening a pantry, or simply looking around the room. We have thirty years of accumulated objects that now have acquired meaning and memories, making them difficult to part with.
We started out our lives together living in a small guest house and though the confines of space limited our acquisitions, we had everything we needed: a special book collection, a bed, a sofa, a small coffee table that served as a dining table as well, a dresser for each of us, a stereo and a television. A couple of years later we moved to the “front” house on the same property and found ourselves living in the spacious two bedrooms, gaining a vintage 1940’s kitchen table and chairs, a lovely brass bed (purchased with my first tax refund) and now had a special music room for the drums.
Soon after our marriage, a job transfer requiring a longer commute led to a cross-town move to a small three-bedroom house. We bought a nice sofa and love seat with some of our wedding money, inherited a round dining table from my parents and finally got to use the 1952 Gaffers and Sattler family stove! With a washer and dryer, we settled into domesticity with a baby on the way.
We purchased our first house nearby, moving into it and the adult world, at the same time; when our daughter was a mere two weeks old, and though the house was only two bedrooms and one bathroom, we were in love with home ownership. The bones of the house were strong: hardwood floors, an enchanting fireplace, a big backyard and a detached garage for a great music room. The baby belongings took over the house and as small toys, a playpen, high chair, small eating utensils arrived we barely noticed the encroaching stuff as it oozed into our lives out of necessity; after all, we only had what we needed.
An opportunity to move into a larger home came and we moved across town again, back to our beginnings and into a three-bedroom house. We were ready for daughter number two, and though it took a couple of years, she arrived and we were waiting for her. We had the entire collection of baby items from daughter number one, and had expanded to outdoor play equipment, dolls and loads of pretend food, kitchen items, and dress-up clothes. It was a child-centered home filled with fun and soon daughter number three arrived, moving into a shared bedroom. We still had the music room, and had gained something wonderful and new: a computer.
After a devastating earthquake, we downsized to a small home nearby, but our stuff came with us and found a new home in the garage, known to many as an extra storage space. Our cars lived outdoors to allow us to store stuff we couldn’t part with: the vintage stove, an extra sofa, boxes of unknown things that wouldn’t fit into our new home and of course the regular tools of home maintenance.
Seven years later, with schoolwork saved, multiple dolls and their wardrobes, dress-up clothes, and a library of books acquired from my mother, now managing a children’s bookstore, we moved into our current home. This home was large enough to hold our grown up family and my recently widowed mother. There were six of us happily sharing a space, getting used to living together, sharing complicated schedules, meals and two households worth of stuff reduced and combined to form a new collection. This is how we have remained. Surrounded by memories, with a family that has now, once again shrunk to either the two of us, or four if it is winter or summer break and the girls are home from college. The stuff is here and though we have great intentions, getting organized isn’t as easy as it sounds. There are so many memories, things that seem necessary and of course the task of actually looking through everything is overwhelming.
Why do we have so much stuff? I think it is because we have lived a full life and though I know it is time to take a hard look at what we have and what we need, the task is one that is easy to procrastinate as I sit looking fondly at my life’s memories.