Stuff is everywhere at our house right now.
For my husband and I, getting married brought us into the stuff-acquisition phase. And having kids made it explode.
Apparently kids need a lot of stuff. That’s not really the case, but we already had all the stuff by the time the lightbulb went off. (And people like to get you stuff, and we like to get people stuff…. We just have a consumer mentality ingrained in us, no matter how much we try to simplify and hear God telling us that nothing in this world matters. We still lust after stuff and love to give and receive it.)
So, last year we bought a house that has a large storage area. When you have storage space, your family members remind you of all the stuff that’s yours stashed at their houses.
And it gets dropped off, likely when you’re out.
Not that we needed a nostalgia drop-off to get this storage party started. It’s commonly known that all you need to do is stash two boxes behind a closed door and they will procreate. So down in our storage area, stuff was gettin’ it on and makin’ babies.
And I was happy to let the stuff procreate with disorganized abandon until most of our extended family members moved all at once.
Normally I exaggerate. But four family members moved in less than 10 days, all in the greater Portland area.
Boxes were being emptied and reused and filled and emptied and reused. And somehow, in the shuffle, 40 boxes got dropped in my garage.
Now these particular boxes aren’t mine, they just needed a nice spot to grab a bite and order a cold beer. Which is what they’ve been doing at someone else’s house for the last 20 or so years.
We will be decommissioning them soon and having their contents shredded, trashed, recycled, and stored. I’m looking forward to parking my car in the garage again.
So all of this moving and storing and shredding has brought me to a crossroads.
What should we do with that stuff that’s accumulating all on its own in our storage area? At the end of our lives, do we want our children to have to go through box after box after box of things?
Do I really want my baby clothes? What am I going to do with them? Do I need to save acceptance letters from college and old transcripts, in the hopes that a grandchild will find them interesting?
I realize that after slowly acquiring all the things you “need,” you end up with a lifetime’s worth of things–children’s toys and artwork and certificates and photos and books and albums–stuff that’s meaningful, but only to you.
How many times are we going to look through photo albums? Especially when there are 20 photo albums to look through.
Things just aren’t that meaningful. I know this, but I forget it as my life expands to fill the closets and storage areas I have.
Time is meaningful. Experiences are meaningful. Photos around our house that we see every day are meaningful.
My friend Kelly recently heard that if you’re just storing things that are “important” then they need to be displayed. If they are not important enough to display, then they’re really not important enough for you to keep. I’m not saying shred your grandmother’s Bible. But how many things do you have that you’re saving to show your kids or are saving because in 25 or 60 or 100 years it will be really valuable?
In the meantime, it will clutter your storage area, begin to smell musty, and await the day that you will present it to your niece or daughter or grandson, for them to say, I don’t have room.
So I’ve been attacking the storage area with merciless zeal. And then attacking the boxes in our garage. And I’m also reminded of a few rules that we try to stick to:
- If you bring something into the house, something else has to go.
- Ask for charitable donations for gifts, and where you can, give them as gifts too.
- If you haven’t used or looked at something for 5 years, it’s really got to go.
- If it’s simply too painful to get rid of something now, wait on it, put it in a purgatory pile, and revisit it in 6 months or a year.
I’ve got to get back to the boxes, but here are some tips for organizing a kid-filled house that I wrote for my friend Cyndi at Convertible Life, and there’s a great Portland organizer, Krista Colvin at Organize the Whole Shebang, whose site I absolutely love.