Green Spot: I Own What?!?

So in light of a bunch of new stuff in the house from Christmas and a long standing dream to get to cleaning out the stuff that is piled up in my basement from our last move we are actively in ‘The Great Purge of 2009.’  So far it has been interesting.

I’ve found out I own more stuff that I don’t even recall owning.  Case in point I have a lovely little slate desktop fountain that I’m dusting off and bringing back into the light.  I’ve also managed to discover an old trove of AD&D 2nd Edition gaming books that I can’t recall why I’ve kept this long since I’ve yet to play a game in that system since I was a teenager.  Now the books are in the sell it or throw it out pile.

Yet overall the experience is teaching me something.  Getting rid of things requires some emotional maturity.  You have to be able to look at something and say to yourself “Yes that was a mistake.  I didn’t need it in the first place, but hanging on to it isn’t helping me either.  Let go and move on.”  I’ve actually proud of my wife as she is getting into the theme of this and we are creating a rather huge ‘to sell or throw out’ pile between the two of us.

Perhaps the most interesting thing I’m learning during this purge is the psychology of stuff.  As we age we tend to go into different phases:

  1. Stuff is Cool.  Yes back when your a kid and even a teenager getting things is cool.  You finally get your own stuff and can pile it up, clean it and use it when you want.  We enjoy getting new things and have a very hard time letting go since we have so little stuff.
  2. Stuff is Useful.  Then as you get older the ‘cool’ phase goes away and you focus on getting things that are useful.  A cutting board and knife and sheets that are not hand me downs from your parents place.  This phase usually lasts until your mid twenties.  In this phase you start to let go of some things but you still tend to hang onto more than you should.
  3. Too Much Stuff.  Then at some point in your life you will realize you have too much stuff.  It’s taking up room and your not sure what to do with it all.  You start to toss more things, but that’s only to make room for the new stuff.  Some people hang in this phase for most of their lives.
  4. Stuff Sucks, but You Need Some of It.  Then eventually most people will wake up and realize stuff is evil.  You don’t need most of it, it takes up too much room and you can’t find the stuff when you want it.  This is usually followed by the realization that some stuff is required: like bedding, shoes and a means to cook food.  This is the truly interesting phase as you can now redefine your life, but not with stuff, but rather what does the stuff actually does for you.  If it makes you happy and/or it is useful keep it.  If not, find a garage bag.

Of course there are likely more phases yet to come, but I’m not there yet.  So how goes your purge after Christmas?  What other phases have you gone through with your stuff?

2 thoughts on “Green Spot: I Own What?!?”

  1. I always try to do a purge and organize sweep before Christmas. Helps even out the excess of the season. I’m at the point where unless a thing is something I can use 100% (consume, wear out) it feels like a burden. For Christmas, I received a set of planet earth DVDs that are lovely, but which I could rent from the library anytime. I will keep them because they were a gift from someone special, but if I’d received them from anyone else I would have felt very happy to donate them to the library and rented one from time to time. I’ve grown to love having some empty space in my rooms, closets and filing cabinets. I feel like I can’t breathe when I enter a filled stuffed room. Good luck with your purge!

  2. I know exactly what you mean but have not been disciplined enough to do the purging thing. I always tell myself that this is the year I hold a garage sale, but it never happens. Every so often, I’ll give away a pile of clothes either to neighbours, family members or to Goodwill, but I still have a basement FULL of STUFF. Have you seen the “Story of Stuff”, a short animated video by Annie Leonard? If not, you must check it out here: http://www.storyofstuff.com/

    It clearly shows how terrible it is to have TOO MUCH STUFF. At least I have drastically reduced acquiring more STUFF. I’m also trying to make use of some of the fabric scraps I have acquired over the years to turn them into more practical items. I just now have to somehow get rid of some of the stuff in a GREEN way.

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