Let’s Talk about Stuff, Baby
Hey Friends! Sorry I went a little MIA on you this last week. I’m still here and working away on some great projects…a few things just caught up with me all at once and something had to give and it wasn’t going to be any more of my sleep 😉 Don’t worry, I’ have lots of fun things to show you coming up here soon. Today, though, I have a different kind of post for you. A post I’ve been wanting and meaning to write for a while now but have just never sat down to do it. However, my experiences over the past week have finally pushed my thoughts into action; although it’s taken me three tries to actually hash it all out (hence my blog silence for a week!)
I want to talk about “stuff.” And when I say “stuff,” I literally mean stuff. The stuff we spend our money on and fill our houses with. The stuff we think we need and the stuff we just plain want. The stuff that can consume our lives, either by wanting more of it or being buried by it. Stuff – our worldly possessions that can bring us great pride and joy but can also become distracting and burdensome.
Why the sudden urge to talk about stuff? As most of you know, my mother just passed away. And with her death came the Herculean task of cleaning out all of her stuff, as well as the home my folks have lived in for my entire life in an effort to help my Dad downsize. I just spent four days back home, cleaning out my mother’s extensive craft collection alongside my sister. We went through every box, bin, drawer, tote, pile and bag spread across two sewing rooms. What we uncovered was an immense collection of fabrics and threads and papers and stamps and notions and tools; far more than I would have ever imagined existing in those two rooms. It was an overwhelming sight that caused me, time and time again throughout the weekend, to reflect about all Mom’s stuff, how and why she accumulated more than she could ever use, and how, scarily, I am so, so similar.
Truth be told, I have a complete split personality when it comes to stuff. On one hand, I.love.to.shop. I love a good deal, I love having a pretty home, I love being surrounded by beautiful and happy things. Like my mother, I’m a total sucker for the Dollar Spot at Target, clearance and sale signs, fabric with great patterns, and ugly furniture screaming for a new coat of paint. I loving using items “already in my stash” to create awesome new projects; but in order to do that, I have to have a sizable stash! This alone has turned me into a hoarder of everything and anything potentially usable for projects from jelly jars and picture frames to fabric swatches and paint testers. I get anxious letting go of a great glass jar or a single yard of fabric, simply because I “might be able to use it someday.” So much like Mom.
But then after days, weeks or months of collecting, stashing, rationalizing, re-arranging closets to fit everything and dreaming about potential-but-not-even-started-yet projects, I look around and start to freak out. I start to get anxious over the clutter, that we are keeping more than our fair share of stuff, that I’ll never be able to use and enjoy all that we own, and that our house is just too full. I don’t like piles, I don’t like things without proper homes (and corresponding labels!). I don’t like over-stuffed drawers or too-full closets, and I don’t like not knowing what we have or not being able to find it. I try very hard to keep our stuff in check and to always “fit” inside the space we’re living. And sometimes, we just get too full.
In turn, all this panic and all this anxiety causes me to hastily sort and purge. I start to go through every closet and every drawer with a “hard eye” and examine every item for true value and usefulness. As I move throughout the house, I build a big garage sale/donate pile. In this pile is some true junk, for sure. But some things are still in their original packaging, never used or never worn. Some things were bought because they were on sale or I had a plan for them and lost interest before I got to it. Eventually, off it all goes, out of the house…and I can breath again.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m far from drowning in my own stuff; and purging is a wonderful, wonderful thing that should and needs to be done on a regular basis. And I certainly get that it’s a fact of life that we change what we want, need, like and don’t like all the time. And as we do, we eventually find ways to get rid of all those things that no longer work in our homes, for whatever reason. It happens, and we all do it. But as I worked through my Mom’s craft rooms, filled with so many wonderful things that will now either be gifted, sold, donated, or returned and as I stare at my own growing donate/sale pile out in the garage, I can’t help but grapple with the overwhelming feeling of wastefulness. It is wasteful to buy more than I need and then get rid of it all when it stresses me out. It’s a waste of time to constantly purge, sort and re-organize my house simply because I can’t resist a good deal. It is a waste to buy supplies for a project that never gets made, even if they are a “good deal.” It is a waste of energy to stress about how full my closets are or what it looks like to other people if I have too much stuff. In the end, it’s a lot of time, money, energy, space, and stuff simply wasted.
To be clear, I am not passing judgement on my Mom here (or anyone else for that matter!). She lived a happy and full life, was an amazing woman who I will adore and admire all the days of my life, and created so many beautiful things that now bring our family immense pride and joy. But as I now see first hand that truly, you cannot “store your treasures up on earth,” it’s really caused me to stop and reflect on how much I value the stuff in my house, about how I obsesses over what I own, how I display it, how I store it, and lately, how I have a seemingly un-satiable desire to own more of it.
Admittedly, the blog world (of which I am an eager and happy participant in!) doesn’t help; which makes my reflections here even more complex and possibly even hypocritical. For one, I am guilty of seeing a fabric pattern or accessory or piece of furniture or even a “look” on another blog and instantly “have to have it.” Some are things I wouldn’t ordinarily buy or want, except that I “saw it on this great blog.” Likewise, now that I am getting a little more into staging and taking pictures of my home (which honestly is bringing me a lot of joy!), I am picking up more stuff to fill my shelves and place around my home, which is somewhat sending the message to you to go do the same-to fill your homes and shelves with certain things to get a certain look. Everything I have brought into my home over the years, I honestly love. But they are perhaps items that I wouldn’t have necessarily bought if I wasn’t taking pictures to post on a blog. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE decorating my house, I LOVE crafting, and I LOVE reading home decor/DIY/crafting blogs, but I can’t help but reflect that these are the very things that are nudging me, ever so gently, to bring more stuff into my house…and I am clearly buying into it!
I’m not really quite sure what my tied-up-with-a-pretty-bow moral of the story is at the end of this marathon post (if you made it this far, I truly love you for it!). I just spent the past 3 days re-organizing and re-arranging my craft room (for what feels like the millionth time) because I had to fit all the stuff I “had to have” from my Mom’s craft collection – so clearly, all these reflections haven’t transformed me into a minimalist just yet. I’ve got a LOOONG way to go before that happens 😉 However, the experiences of cleaning out my mom’s craft rooms, bringing all this “new” stuff into my own home, and having to re-organize and purge my own space to get it to fit has really gotten me thinking about how I spend my money, how I spend my time, and what I place importance on in my life. When I’m gone from this earth, I really don’t want it all to have been about my “stuff.”
Originally, I wasn’t going to give up anything for Lent; but after this week, I’ve decided to take a spending hiatus, at least for these 40 days and perhaps longer. It’s not really for financial reasons, but rather because I want to be more intentional about the things I truly want and need. I also want to really start using up the fabrics and supplies I have in my house; I’ve built quite my own stash now, but that doesn’t really stop me from dashing to the store when an idea strikes! To you, my wonderful readers, I want you to know almost nothing around here will change from your perspective, I don’t think! I still have every intention of crafting gifts and home decor items, and having a well-styled, personal, and DIY-filled home…because honestly, having a decorated and organized home and creating with my hands is part of who I am and gives me a huge sense of satisfaction and contentment. Additionally, taking pictures and blogging over the last few years has become a different aspect of my crafting that I am really, really enjoying…so I have no intention of stopping! Behind the scenes, however, know that there will (hopefully!) be a little more mindfulness, a little more intention, and a lot less waste on my part!