As Americans, we have too much stuff. During a recent perusal of TV’s less than uplifting offerings, I noticed a running theme. Hoarders, Storage Wars, Storage Hunters, Shipping Wars, Toy Hunter, American Pickers, Antiques Roadshow are all shows about stuff. People buried in stuff, people storing stuff, people buying other people’s stuff, people shipping stuff, people collecting stuff, people appraising stuff!
I was about to cast some stones on those who have too much stuff, when I looked around my glass house. I slipped those rocks right back into my pocket.
Everywhere I looked there were piles of stuff. Toys, paper, craft supplies, clothes, books, bags…too much stuff. I blame it on my kids.
When my husband and I were the only occupants of our house, it was very tidy. We did have piles of paper but they were small and confined to our desks. That all changed when we had kids. Soon, there were diapers stored in nearly every room. Of course, if you have diapers you also need wipes, a changing table (which is a magnet for clutter) or at least a mat for changing the baby on, and even a tube of diaper cream – just in case. Oh, and then there were the toys. The rattling toys, the moving toys, the tummy time toys, the musical toys.
While I took care of my babies and my husband was building his own business, we hardly noticed the piles growing around us. There was laundry that was folded, or not, and still needed to be put away. There were toys, which fortunately outnumbered the Cheerios, scattered everywhere. There were books stacked in every room that served as great little resting posts for the boys when they started to cruise.
Things only got worse when the boys started school. Now, in addition to everything else we were drowning in, we were also drowning in paper. Forms to be signed, requests for donations, corrected worksheets with big stars or smiley faces drawn on them, original artwork by my two little masters. All paper that must be dealt with, eventually. My house had too much stuff. I would like to have less.
I decided I would start to sort stuff. I had read an article on organizing your stuff that suggested separating everything into three piles: keep, donate, and throw away. Having always been a “throw it out” kind of gal, I was surprised to realize that throwing things out wasn’t so easy when your kids, or at least memories of them, were attached to the things. By the time I was done, the only things in the throw away pile were some old shoelaces, a gum wrapper and a picture I was sure neither of my kids had drawn. The keep pile loomed high. At least, I had a decent amount of things to donate.
With the donations given away and the shoelaces, gum wrapper and picture tossed, I still had to figure out what to do with our stuff. I realized then that my real problem was that I had no place to put our stuff. Our closets were already full and we really didn’t have much in the way of shelves or cabinets anywhere else in the house.
I went on a mission to find storage for our stuff. Quickly, I learned three things about storage. First, buying things to store your stuff is very expensive. Two, an entire industry seems to have grown up around ways to store our stuff. Three, just like we have too much stuff, we also have too many choices about how to store our stuff. I went home feeling defeated. I had not come up with a way to store our stuff. It seemed to me that spending a lot of money on things to store our stuff was only going to encourage us to fill it with more stuff.
I still want to have less stuff, but, for now, I have been living peacefully with our piles. From time to time, I wage war upon them and they actually get smaller for a while. One time, I was even able to see my kitchen counters. I put a plate down without having to move anything! That was a wonderful day. If only it had lasted.