In Defense of Stuff
A predictable topic, from someone coming down off a spending bender. Admittedly, I just voluntarily spent a bunch of money on … crap. Good crap. Better yet, cheap good crap. Irrefutably, crap all the same.
I’m a firm believer in crap. A minimalist, I will never be. The cyclical procuring and purging of crap, it makes the world go round. It inspires us to build a new desk organizer, make a new set of coasters, learn about Holistic Veterinary Care or build a border for your raspberry bed. It connects us with our community, (especially when we barter) and the small businesses we (hopefully) choose to patronize. Whether it’s Fiestaware on a shelf (or better yet with my dinner on it), dogs snuggling in comfy beds, items received as wedding gifts or hauled on cable car odysseys through San Francisco, all this stuff, it is good. In my book.
Stuff gets a bad rap. Minimalism and frugality have a strange back and forth relationship. Clearly, less crap can lead to more money. Either by the selling of crap you don’t use, got at a heck of a good price and can sell for a tidy profit, or by requiring less space to store said crap, resulting in lower housing costs. But ‘being frugal’ can also be about the acquisition of crap, at the lowest possible cost. As with most movements though, it tends to be represented by the two extremes; You are living in your tiny house with a 100 possessions or less, or shopping the Walmart ads for a bunch of stuff you don’t need, prepping for your episode of hoarders.
I’m the happy medium, with perhaps a tendency towards the tiny house side. I would argue that the enjoyment of my stuff, it keeps me home. Not just because I have projects to do, gardens and chickens to tend, food to can, and books to read, but because I enjoy my space. That stuff, it enhances my experience of home. Maybe not as much as the Pack o’ Mutts and The Husband do. Still, there is something to be said for enjoying your setting. Plenty of people do that without a lot of stuff. Me though, I like admiring my vintage risk boards and my yard flamingo. Sitting at home with a book, is that much more pleasant and appealing when I am surrounded by things I like. And, as we all know, sitting at home is just about the cheapest past time ever.
Moreover, having a home I enjoy and am proud of, means I am more likely to want to share it with others. This isn’t just about the stuff inside the home. The ample back yard and party space, were certainly part of the motivation behind acquisition of the Big Fat Mortgage. Stuff helps though. As it turns out babies of friends look almost as cute in the best dog bed in the world as the dogs themselves. Who knew? If we are hanging at my crib (I said it), we aren’t eating at restaurants. We aren’t recreation shopping. Who needs to when you have a patio set and a barbeque? Having people over, not the cheapest past time ever, but it’s right up there.
I put a lot of thought into my role as a consumer. There have probably been far too many blog posts about the thought minutia involved in my making or not making purchases. I practice conscientious consumerism, to some degree or another whenever possible. I battle against planned obsolescence. I question wants. And I’ve still not bought an iPad. By all accounts, I’m selective about my stuff. These should be small decisions. Yet, I seem to spend an awful lot of brain power on them.
To me, this makes sense. In a society where we are powerless against so many things, my role as a consumer is one of the few places I feel I can make an impact on the world around me.
There is the other side of the dichotomy. Too much of a good thing. The acquisition of stuff is not infinite, given we all have a finite amount of space. An occasional purge must be done. And why spend time and money on stuff only to purge it? I’m of a “to every thing a season” philosophy on this. Things have their time and the place, and so does the getting rid of things. Part of being that responsible consumer, is cutting those things loose, releasing them back to the wild. How we perform that act comes with its own responsibility and corresponding implications. Enter “up-cycling”, the benefits of pinterest, and the reason why I’m planning a group garage sale for next month. In my opinion, just because crap must be ejected from time to time, doesn’t mean we should opt out of consumerism completely. I can’t think of many better ways to spend a weekend, than with my closest friends (and all their crap) talking trash, drinking beer, and greeting a bunch of strangers in my driveway. Seriously. If I make a little money and get rid of some junk too? Freaking fabulous.
Am I Materialistic? Most of my stuff is not new. That’s not a sacrifice. It’s because I mostly like old junk. By some standards, I keep my crap to a minimum. I try to keep my pedestrian crap procurement cheap. Yet, I enjoy ogling Van’s finds over at ThriftCore probably a little too much. I’d rather drool a little there than hit ‘Shop Now’ at One King’s Lane. In both cases though, it’s spending time, money and energy on stuff. Is there more to life? Certainly. However, I’d rather do the rest of it surrounded by stuff, in addition to the people and animals, I dig. As long as it doesn’t break the bank.
How about you? Where do you fall on the spectrum of stuff? Do you examine your relationship to the things in your life? What are your weaknesses?