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Monday, January 20, 2014

Stuff, stuff, and more stuff

Why are we such a consumer driven society? 

In what generation did we go from being happy with what we had to needing multiples of everything we already have and then more?

In preparation for some upcoming construction I was helping my mother clean out my grandmother's living room the other day. My grandmother is 80 + years old she my grandfather have lived in this same house for about 30 years. My grandfather, however, passed away nearly 3 years ago. My grandmother’s health is declining.

Being the oldest and the only one that lives close by, the responsibility fell on me to help her clean out the living room.  In living room there's a set of shelves with cabinets underneath.  The shelves have displayed crystal things (bowls, and vases and stuff I cannot find a purpose for) for as long as I can remember. Underneath those shelves are four cabinets. I don’t think that my siblings and I ever thought of looking at what was in those cabinets. There are places in everyone's home you don't ever consider looking through. This is one of those places. As children you never stop to think about what might even be in there. Curiosity never overtook us, so we never stopped to check it out.

While my mother and I were cleaning out the cabinet we found a dozen empty boxes. Empty.  Empty boxes.  30 years of storing empty boxes.  We also found 6 boxes of crystal that had never been opened. These boxes have been in the cabinet for 30 years.
Unused. Unopened. Unloved. So why have them?

Along with the empty boxes in crystal were vcr programmers, remote controls to things we could not identify, cable cords, 6 sets of headphones, nick knacks, do dads, and some worthless stuff.  Among all of their possessions, I also found a few treasures they had collected from Africa, Japan, Czechoslovakia, and Germany. I'm sure these things had great memories attached to them 20 years ago. My grandfather is no longer with us, and my grandmother can't remember last week. So stories were never passed on and never attached to the object. Thus rendering these items worthless to anyone left behind.

As we were going through these cabinets, more cabinets under the wet bar, and a hallway closet I found unopened gifts, unopened items that they had purchased, half used items, and things that have been ruined by non-use and storage for the last few years.

You don't think about things getting ruined simply because they have not been used.

I have never understood people buying things just to have them,  but then not using them. I can understand wanting to be careful with great grandma's china, but you can't truly appreciate and love it if it is never used.

When I got back home that night I looked around my house. I try to make a point of everything having multiple purposes.  If I buy something and cannot use it on a regular basis, for one reason or another, it quickly becomes clutter.

I don't have time for clutter. I have children, I do not need disorder. Our playroom is full of it. I try to keep the children's bedrooms uncluttered, dejunked, and relatively clean.
I told my husband not to buy me stuff. For many years he was in the habit of buying me a cow when we visited a new city/state. My memory it has never been very good. I look at these things and think “how cute.”  

I would rather have a photo album with stories in it than a trinket that will mean nothing to anybody in 30 years. 

However, if I have a photo album, with stories attached to the photos, not only will I be able to add detail to those stories in a few decades, my grandchildren will be able to see a portion of my life but they were not able to experience.

I looked through my grandmothers photo albums one afternoon, she could not tell me who was in most of the photos, or much behind this much of the story behind the photo. The photo albums are full of photos (no words) of their travels to Israel, Germany, Spain and other places I will never be able to visit.  I know I am NOT great at keeping up with my photo albums, but I have recently started making sure that this is a priority.  Partially for this very reason. A photo album will last much longer and be treasured much more

I love looking through photo albums.  So do my children.  We will sit and look at a scrapbook or photo album a million times.  They have memorized many stories and can retell them without any help.  In twenty years they will not remember the Barbie’s, where they came from, or how often they were played with.  The girls may not want to even keep them for their own children.  However, a photo of them playing together can be hauled to college, a new apartment, a new home, and even shared with their own grandchildren after Barbie has had a proper burial.

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