Thursday, June 4, 2009

It's Only Stuff

My parents were part of the generation that survived both the Great Depression and World War II. As one of the last tobacco farmers in a rapidly urbanizing Montgomery County, Md. my Dad never really lost the depression mind set. In our family, hard work and frugality were necessary if we were to eat. Our habit of making much out of little was summed up in a little verse that my mother taught me as a child, saying: "Use it up. Wear it out. Make it do, Or do without!" My wife also came of age in circumstances that required work and the ability to make do with what one had. The net result is that we tend to hang onto stuff long after it has ceased to be useful just in case we might some day need it. I have lugged my machinist's tools to eighteen addresses in the last thirty-nine years just in case I ever need to go back to work in a machine shop to feed my family. They are good and useful stuff. I fondly hold onto books and magazines I have read and might want to read again and to books and magazines I have never read but that sound as if I may one day want to read them. Good and enlightening or entertaining stuff. Old radio equipment has followed me home from places as far distant as North Carolina because it's "good stuff" and might be fun to play with. When my grandparents died, the farming tools and my grandfather's mill-wright tools made the trek to my parent's place. When my parents died, a lot of these same tools took residence with me, not because I needed them or that they had sentimental value, but because I knew how to use them. I feel like I have half of the farm in my basement, but it's still good and potentially useful stuff. I have acquired stuff on impulse because I thought it might be neat to have. A lot of it has stayed with me. I have also held onto stuff because it was not good enough to donate or sell, but way too good to throw away. I am up to my knees in stuff! Sure, I use and enjoy some of it it, but I look at a lot of it and wonder why it's still there. And I look at too much of it and wonder what I was thinking when I dragged it home. I have finally come to the conclusion that will never make me happy and that stuff that is neither used nor enjoyed is clutter. It's time to start the process of de-cluttering, of getting rid of stuff I neither need, nor use, nor take pleasure in -- item by item and piece by piece. After all, it's not anything of real value. It's only stuff.