With a handful of exceptions -- essential tech items, significant gifts, certain books, black cashmere sweaters -- I can't hang on to things. I have, for the past few years, been systematically emptying my rooms and closets (and those of my family) in a haze of donating, recycling, handing down, and what have you. People are noticing. It's become somewhat of a joke among my friends that I have no furniture, and it's a scandal to my mother, who says the condo looks like we are moving out.
Why am I like this? This neurosis, and I think I'm labelling it correctly, has been gathering steam since it clicked with me how buying anything can't possibly be green if you count the energy expended along the production cycle (If you haven't seen the official Story of Stuff, please do check it out.) So there's that. Then there's the disappointment factor; whenever I do buy something nice, it inevitably gets destroyed as it goes through the chipper of daily life. Beautiful oak tables with glass stains. A plethora of cat scratches on the piano. Barf on the Turkish silk rug. Antique clock smashed by the kitten. And so forth. Why bother? Earthly things crumble, so I'm practicing non-attachment. A few precious vases are hanging out in my underwear drawer along with what little jewelry I still own.
Last week I was sooooooooooo excited that The Dude finally allowed me to sell our set of wood Adirondack chairs, stained and peeling on the patio, because I am not the handy scrape-and-paint type, and never will be. Every time I looked at the chairs I felt a reproach, mainly from my parents, who bought me the damned things. For the last few years, my Mom regularly maintained them, but, well, that's not happening any more, either. And I hate to say it, but with my mom's illness, she hasn't noticed that I have shedded a few things she thrust upon us; piles of quilts, vintage tablecloths -- gak!
My dad figured it out, finally. "You don't like furniture because you hate to clean!" Uh, exactly. Is there something wrong with that?
Stuff weighs you down. Yes, we are going away - far away, to Tibet - this summer, but it's been hard figuring out how to handle the cats, and the payments on all of our stuff (house, car, insurances for more stuff). Reading Walden this spring just pissed me off even more. The guy had it right. We work and slave and worry to buy and take care of...stuff. Not only for stuff, but a large part of it goes for that.
You can't be truly organized if you have stuff, either. It takes far too much time. The only way to keep track of your crap is to purge regularly. Otherwise you're a slave to the C*ntainer Store, and to storage, and labelling. I regularly discuss this with friend L., who has a purge bug, too, mainly for the organizational high. We compete. We egg each other on. It's a little sick, but we can't stop.
I think it may also be an aesthetic thing for me, though, and one which is almost impossible to practice a) when you have young children and b) live in a New Jersey condo instead of a Japanese temple or New York loft and c) don't have a ton of money. I mean, if I could do it again, I would just dump a wad o' cash on these cool sectionals by Ligne Roset and call it a day, and try not to get upset when they get full of cat hair.