I love stuff. Can you relate? I have been guilty of succumbing to “retail therapy” every now and again. When I lived alone, it was a hobby. When it was just me and my oldest daughter, it was a coping mechanism. Now, with a family of five, it has lessened greatly — but not enough.
I love my stuff. I’m not talking hoarder magnitude but enough to make me uneasy. Slowly, I am learning that having less material things can lead to more enjoyment in life.
A cluttered home leads to a cluttered mind; this causes stress. Do you notice how just walking into a messy space adversely affects your mood? I sure do. I feel like I’m falling behind and that I’m being suffocated by the stuff. It affects the family in that we are immersed in controlling our stuff and not being present with each other.
One day my 2-year-old daughter, Emerson, grabbed my cellphone and stashed it somewhere in the house. My husband and I spent the better part of that day (a day of leave, no less) searching. I realized that between every drawer, bin, and dresser, there were a million places she could have put it. It was frustrating to say the least.
The phone ended up being hidden behind a sheer curtain in the kitchen. It could have been so much simpler to find had we not had all the other stuff to look through. We could have spent the day doing something fun together instead of rifling through our belongings to find a single (albeit expensive) item. This was a real wake up call. In short, too much stuff makes it difficult to find things.
In the past, I’ve struggled with letting go of little items, thinking I might need them at home in an emergency. But the truth is, what good is having five infant nail clippers in the house if the bathroom is cluttered, and I can’t find even one? It has taken a whole shift in perspective for me to realize that true security lies in knowing where to find things — not in having a lot of them.
Having too many things also teaches my children to focus on the wrong joys in life. Let’s talk toys. The same ideals apply to our children wanting to collect or see joy in their material items. Instead of having a toy box overflowing with countless damaged or ignored items, I want to instead teach them to have only the toys they truly enjoy. It shouldn’t be about how many toys you have, it should be about how much fun you have with a few.
Too much stuff also puts unnecessary strain on my marriage and family. Load after load of laundry and dishes can really wear a body down. I’ve said more than a few times in a moment of exasperation, “I want to just give half of this stuff away.” Family time is sometimes disproportionately devoted to chores and picking up our things. We bicker over the messes and that’s an unfortunate side effect to clutter. It’s time consuming.
I have resolved to pare down the excess and only keep what is loved, truly practical, and irreplaceable. I want to have the sort of peace that comes with a pleasant, efficient environment.
I won’t be perfect. I’ll falter and shop online or find that cute item I feel I can’t live without. I’m not trying to be a minimalist per se — just a person who is content with less.
Ultimately, I’ll always love things, but I have to remember things cannot love me back.