I like stuff. I don’t like to be the same person two days in a row, so I have a wide variety of clothes in my wardrobe. I get over-excited about old books and buy out every charity shop even though my bookcase is overflowing with the ones I haven’t yet read (and I keep the books after I’ve read them just in case someone else would like to borrow them – and also they look cool). There’s a craft box under my bed that’s teeming with jam jars, wooden pegs and countless bits of scrap paper, because you just don’t know when you’ll need to generate a vintage-inspired candle holder at the drop of the hat. And I like all this stuff – I wouldn’t hold onto it if I didn’t – but when my bedroom floor becomes covered in clothes and paperbacks and ribbons, I suddenly become very un-fond of all of my beautiful, necessary things.
At the time I think I need these things. There’s a wedding coming up so I need a new dress, even though I’ve got plenty of dresses in my wardrobe. I’m at Comic Con so I have to get two graphic novels and a hilarious Batgirl T shirt because, you know, the box of comic books and five Batman-related t-shirts I have already isn’t enough (yep, that’s just Batman, I haven’t even mentioned Marvel, Star Wars or Beauty and the Beast).
Even on a higher level, what you have isn’t enough. You start with renting a flat. Then you move to a slightly nicer flat, but it still hasn’t got a garden and you need a garden so you can get a dog. So you move to a house and get a garden and a dog, which means getting a new barbeque and plants and toys for Ralph (which is an excellent dog name for our future puppy, don’t steal it). But as you’re now slightly further away from the station you should probably get another car. Oh, and you’re already start planning for the next house with the bigger garden and larger rooms, because you’re still struggling to fit all your stuff in this one and Ralph needs a friend…
Have you ever felt weighed down by the things you “need”? Have you ever waded through your own pile of stuff and wondered, “Where did all this come from?” Have you ever worked longer hours so you could save up for a big purchase – and then the next purchase after that? Have you ever bought the latest smart phone even though your phone works fine, so now you have two phone because you kept the old one – just in case? Our lives are filled with stuff to the point where we start thinking about clever storage solutions, and then storage units, and then bigger houses just so we have somewhere to put it all. Where does it end?
Because the stuff you have is just never enough – you always need more. So we get into this cycle of consumption; making money so we can get things and then trying to make more money so we can get more things but we can’t enjoy the things we end up with because we’re too busy working to get more things. Does anyone else feel tired just reading that sentence? We want nice things to show off to our friends, but then can’t afford to spend quality time with the same friends because we’ve spent the money on that third sofa, one which no one ever sits on anyway.
The stuff you have doesn’t just clutter up your house; it clutters up your whole life – your career, your free time, who you are and what you value. You’re busy and tired and nothing ever feels like it’s enough. The clutter gets into your headspace. You’re stressed at work. You can’t afford new experiences. You have no time for the things you really value, because you’re too busy accumulating more valuables. Surely there’s a better way to live?
Last week, I moved house and it was exhausting. The boxes – oh the boxes. Never does it become more painfully obvious how much stuff you have than when you have to put it all into a moving van. But, much to my dismay, we didn’t just pack everything up; we sorted. We went through each room of the house and threw things away. We took bags to the charity shop. We ferried unsalvageable items to the tip. We gave my cousin Emily a George Foreman grill. At first, I was reluctant. Why would we give ourselves even more work to do by going through all of our stuff? Why would we bother throwing things away when we’re moving to a bigger place with more storage? This was all stuff we needed, right?
Except it wasn’t. It was clothes we never wore and appliances we never used (turns out George Foreman grills are precious little use when you stop eating meat and toasties). It was little bottles of hotel shampoo – “just in case” we ran out of other shampoo. It was DVDs we’d never watch again. Our lives had moved on from some of these things, and it felt great. We felt lighter and free of this stuff that was weighing us down. We felt more prepared for the next chapter of our lives because we weren’t holding on to things from the previous one; we weren’t those people anymore.
Maybe you don’t need this advice. Maybe you’re a strict nun who has been doing life with nothing more than a straw mattress and a Bible, but the rest of us live in a stuff-driven world and it’s easy to get caught up. That’s not to say that having possessions is inherently wrong. I’m not telling you to throw away the things you love or bring you joy. If you’re an artist you will need paint supplies. If you love your stamp collection then, by all means, don’t chuck it in the recycling bin. All I’m trying to suggest is that maybe there’s some other stuff that’s getting in the way. Because the great news is; you don’t have to move house to free yourself from your clutter. Whether it’s stuff you have or stuff you think you want, maybe it’s time to stop, take stock and ask yourself what you really want your life to be filled with.
Written by Chloe Satchell-Cobbett, Deputy Editor, Liberti