A past poem I wrote contains the line: “my possessions own me” and that is feeling more true than ever this week. I am being drug down by all my stuff. Why do I need 12 plates when I rarely feed more than my husband and me? Why do I have 4 sets of salt and pepper shakers, why do I have 4 containers of kitchen utensils on my counter, why do I have all this space for two of us and two dogs? It’s just more time spent cleaning than having fun and enjoying life. I don’t enjoy housework, why have such a big house? (and my place really isn’t that big) And these are just the things I see from my kitchen, let’s not even look in my bathroom or my closet.
Several New York Times articles on money, retirement and family life touch on the nature of “stuff” and “possessions”. In this one, “The Way We Live: Downing in Stuff” by Penelope Green she interviews a researcher on a UCLA study of 32 typical middle class families and all their stuff. One quote really got me thinking…..
“Finally, there was a direct relationship between the amount of magnets on refrigerators and the amount of stuff in a household.” uh oh!
“….they were trying to help answer one of the next big questions in the emerging field of happiness studies. Already, scholars in the field have established that experiences tend to make people happier than possessions. What we do, it seems, has more potential for lasting satisfaction and memory-making than what we have.”
“Experiences tend to make people happier than possessions” and I am sure they are not taking about the experience of acquiring those possessions. Vacations, time spent with family, time spent in pursuit of learning something new or time spent with friends are the things that make people happy. Shit, no wonder I feel weighed down.
And this piece from the same article also intrigued me because shopping and acquiring has become a solitary, computer driven endeavor for me; focused on finding the best deal, using that coupon code and getting cash back for stuff, if I am truly honest, I know I don’t need.
“Once upon a time, with roots that go back to medieval marketplaces featuring stalls that functioned as stores, shopping offered a way to connect socially, as Ms. Liebmann and others have pointed out. But over the last decade, retailing came to be about one thing: unbridled acquisition, epitomized by big-box stores where the mantra was “stack ’em high and let ’em fly” and online transactions that required no social interaction at all — you didn’t even have to leave your home.“
And this recent New York Times article by David Wallis looks at retirees that dump their possessions and hit the road;
“SOME call themselves “senior gypsies.” Others prefer “international nomad.” David Law, 74, a retired executive recruiter who has primarily slept in tents in several countries in the last two years, likes the ring of “American Bedouin.”
They are American retirees who have downsized to the extreme, choosing a life of travel over a life of tending to possessions. And their numbers are rising.“
“A life of travel over a life of tending to possessions” there it is again possessions and what it does to weigh down and anchor your life. Shedding a bunch of my possessions and removing that burden from my life seems like it is just the answer I am looking for to feel better, worry less and live a happier life.
Now I don’t think I could ever go to the extreme simplicity route and pick a number of items, most articles seem to pick 100 and live with only those. But being much more mindful of the need, verse want, verse acquiring for entertainment would, I think, be a big step in the right direction.
What about you – do you have more possessions than you really need? Do you ever feel weighed down by all of it?