September 25, 2013

Forecast: An Accumulation of Stuff

From the moment we are born we begin to accumulate stuff. If you are 'fortunate' enough to live in an affluent nation, the forecast is for a shit storm of stuff. More stuff than you will ever be able to use, or find a place to stash.

The most common reason given for buying a larger house that I generally hear is "for more space". For what?

To feed the storm of accumulating stuff that threatens to flood every empty space available. Bigger house - more stuff. Get even bigger house - get even more stuff.

But even my 550 sq. ft. home has ample hidey holes for stashing things I don't need. And one doesn't have to buy things to acquire things. More often that not that free thing is unnecessary clutter just like the crap bought at the shopping mall. Just because it is free (or cheap or on sale) does not mean you need it.

Our inability to resist the accumulation of stuff should raise warning flags. Maybe we feel lonely and try to fill our empty spaces just as we fill the silences in conversations with mindless chatter before they grow long.

A bowerbird's stuff.
Or is it fear that causes us to puff up our nests like bowerbirds? Bowerbirds decorate their nests with an accumulation of attractive objects in order to attract a mate.

We may be afraid of what others will think of us if we have a less than spectacular nest.

Not having lots of glittery stuff seems so... unambitious. One thing you can say about successful people (or bowerbirds) - they have lots of great stuff. But come on - collecting stuff is easy. Very easy.

Our entire system is geared toward making it as painless as humanly possible for us to buy stuff.

"Hello", they coo, "Let us help you spend your money (or credit). We know what you want. Yes, as a matter of fact it will make you happier."

It is easy to get stuff. Lots of stuff. More stuff. Better stuff. Newer stuff. Funner stuff. Cooler stuff. But while the accumulation continues to grow, our happiness stalls out in a doldrums that is impossible to escape by more of the same.

Resisting the accumulation frenzy will be one of the hardest things you do, and one of the most worthwhile. It requires constant vigilance, determination, and yes, ambition. It is a constant battle between the forces of freedom and the lure of a comfortable captivity in a gilded consumer cage.

The forecast for my household is for increasingly clear spaces and freedom from the mind numbing effects of unnecessary stuff. First though, a tornado of simplicity is blowing through the place, shredding the unnecessary wherever it lurks.

It is anticipated that a deep calm will follow for an extended period.


  1. Anonymous9/25/2013

    My brother recently died. Last weekend an estate sale was held with all his stuff strewn across the lawn and driveway. How sad that the debris of his life was picked over by strangers and sold for pennies. All the hard work, time and money that he spent to accumulate stuff. I would venture that if we could ask him now he would wish that he worked less, bought less and enjoyed life more. He was 60 when he died, a short life that was spent getting "ahead" and it got him nothing.

    1. Miss Marla, Before my dad died at 64 he apologized to us kids for the boxes he knew we would find in the basement of his house. He told us the boxes hadn't been opened for years, and he wasn't even sure what was in them.

      And dad was a simple living man for whom accumulation was not important. I don't associate any belongings with memories of him, and I don't possess any of his stuff. When I think of dad I remember all of his positive human qualities.

      He collected a lot of love throughout his life, but not much stuff. Still, there were those unopened boxes full of 'nothing'. There was no garage sale, just recycling, second hand shop donations, and a small load to the landfill.

      I want to go out with nothing. I am aiming for all my stuff to take up an amount of space somewhere between a large backpack and a small pickup truck load.

      I am on your plan - "Work less, Buy less, Enjoy life more".

      Sorry again about your brother's passing.

    2. Anonymous9/25/2013

      It's my goal as well to leave as little as possible. I'm really down to the bare necessities and plan on keeping it that way.

  2. Anonymous9/27/2013

    Both of what you said, Miss Marla and Gregg too...I plan on doing. I recently moved out of a 260 sq ft apartment (yes, quite tiny) and you never realize how much you have until you need to shed it all! I am moving out of state at the end of the year and know full well that having furniture and just "stuff" is a burden (especially when you're subletting in that three month period!). I came into this world with nothing. I would like to leave it with nothing. I am 30. I see my boss who is 75 lose. his. freaking. mind. as of lately doing all the legal planning and so forth for all the stuff and property and vehicles and so forth to his kids and all that and I have to wonder two things: Why spend your life 'getting ahead' just to end up doing this, and also - don't one's kids have a life-path set out already, whether or not the matriarch/patriarch dies? Why does one feel the need to "leave behind" anything? Even if it *is* money - I know from my own elders-of-the-family that when my great grandmother died, there was SO MUCH FIGHTING over money and land that it embarrassed me to be related to people that forever tried telling me they knew better simply because they're older. Even today, people give me the 'what if' thing because I am only 30 and the accumulation of what they deem is adult responsibility will eventually embed itself in my psyche. Apparently they have never heard of Daniel Suelo ;) Or Thoreau for that matter. Since when did human materialism override the "all that is good is wild and free"?


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