Thursday, December 13, 2007
Is your home splitting its seams?
As I drive through our suburban neighborhood sometimes I get to peek into my neighbors home via the garage. Sometimes they are neatly organized and painted a pretty color or turned into a game room, but what I notice mostly is that there aren't a lot of cars parked there. Tidiness aside, because this isn't the norm, most garages are packed to the gills with boxes and stuff.
There is always a good reason/excuse for accumulating all these things and then taking the cars room away to store it. Based on the number of storage facilities I see popping up everywhere, I'm thinking that these people have even run out of garage space. I will never understand why a person chooses to pay a pretty large sum of cash to store, insure, and protect things that they don't need or use.
It's not only garages though. It's closets and drawers too. We all know it. We are a people who need our things. We want, we shop, we buy, then we store. Marketing is genius for making us want what we didn't know we wanted. Marketing makes us buy the last minute items at the store. Marketing creates a need that wasn't a need before. Marketing makes me feel like my house isn't decorated enough if I don't have Santa Claus soap and guest towels.
Oh sure, don't knock the Christmas spirit! I love it when someone goes all out decorating for every season. My first thought though is where do they store that stuff for 11 months out of the year. And, how much did it cost to buy those things? I really hope they aren't in debt if they are buying a couple of $60 Christmas trees, one for the front room too.
There are two things I feel passionate about right now during the Christmas season. One is about all the clutter we accumulate. The other is about the money we are spending. This all stems from a root belief that one holds, and maybe it is because of family rituals and maybe it comes from savvy marketing.
We can't keep buying everything and storing it. Our homes are busting at the seams. As a nation we live in bigger homes, but still don't have room for all the stuff. We need a FLOW in our lives. Things come in, things go out. I always have a to go bag. When it is full, it goes in my car and to charity. If you start small, you won't be overwhelmed by starting to create a flow again in your home. When you touch something that you think needs to go, put it in the bag immediately. Let it go to bless someone else.
We also can't keep buying all these things and paying for it. Most people have debt on credit cards or car loans. We have allowed debt to become an acceptable part of the American way. The truth is that it robs us of peace. It makes us work more so we have less time to enjoy the things we already have. Not long ago I was in Target and had a buggy with a few things in it. I think I was about to spend about $50 total on a wreath that was marked down to $12, a picture frame for a wedding photo, and a couple things that escape me now. As I walked toward the cash register I said "I don't need this stuff right now." and I left. Sometimes I do that online too. I fill up the cart and then exit the website. It's funny how just the act of shopping for it is therapeutic enough. Question yourself, especially now at Christmas. Imagine how much that item will sell for at the yard sale when you don't want it anymore. Is paying $25 now worth the 75 cents you'll get for it later?
Just by having less you will appreciate more and isn't that what the season is really about?
The photo is a dog we encountered in San Francisco. He is giving you the "hairy eyeball" saying "No excuses, clean out those garages and closets!"
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hi. just found your blog from leah at "style for the sahm."
what a great post. when we moved overseas i needed to clean out everything as we were paying for square footage to ship our stuff with us. when i had to think about whether or not it was financially worth it to PAY to ship my things, it was amazing how easy it was to winnow. it was cathartic. five years after our move, our house is still uncluttered to the point that my visiting-from-america in-laws asked if we were ok financially because we don't have a lot of apparent "stuff." i replied that we have what we need and the rest is all put away in it's place. i still have empty closets and i can breathe.
i have friends here who leased a container twice the size of the one we did to ship everything they owned, and i mean everything. and now, when i go to their house to visit i get clautrophobic. they have so much stuff just spilling out everywhere... and the storage room and a bedroom are just filled with boxes to the ceiling (most people here don't have garages, we have storage rooms) she doesn't even know what she has in there.
sorry for the very long comment, sometimes when i explain to other american ex-pats that the "cleanliness" of our home is not that, it minimalism, they look at me like i'm nuts. the brits here get it -- i'm glad to see that you do too!
MDmom, I know just what you mean. Until you discover that yourself how much less you need, it's hard to explain it. Our level of "need" is very high in America. I found myself feeling like my house wasn't Christmasy enough because it wasn't decked out with the standard fare of outside lights, evergreen wreaths and snowman guest towels. It's all too much, isn't it?
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