Things and Stuff

I am not a hoarder. Not by any stretch of the imagination. I routinely donate or give away or toss out anything that is no longer used in this house. And when Spring is in the air I am utterly ruthless. Everything unused or broken must go. No exceptions.
When the kids aren’t looking I toss out the little bits of plastic crap that they ‘can’t possibly’ part with.
When my husband isn’t looking I toss out his ugly shirts and ridiculous ‘quick dry’ shorts.
Tupperware that hasn’t seen the light of day for 12 months, gone.
Towels that no-one uses because they are ‘too scratchy’, gone.
My ‘7 for all Mankind’ absolute favourite-have to accept they will never fit again- jeans, gone.
My husband jokes that he sleeps with his leg twitching because if he appeared to stop moving I might get rid of him too.

Recently my Grandmother wanted to give the boys the Thomas Trains that they used to play with at her house, under the condition that I wouldn’t donate them. I fail to understand why we need a box of trains that no-one plays with just because the boys ‘used to love them.’ Some other little boy would love them just as much so I told her that if they came into this house I could absolutely guarantee that I would give them away.
I didn’t hear about them again. They will sit unused in her house for the next 30 years.
Some people really don’t like to get rid of the things they paid money for. Whether those things serve a purpose or not.

I honestly don’t give a second thought to giving stuff away, I am not attached to any of it and as such I don’t consider myself materialistic. I know that other people might disagree with that because I do enjoy Egyptian cotton sheets, and cooking with my Scan pans makes the chore slightly bearable. I cannot deny that washing and ironing a Ralph Lauren shirt is much easier than its Target counterpart. And my Laura Star makes ironing said shirt a breeze. Sometimes quality makes life just a little nicer, and I do enjoy using nice things. However, my personal worth is in no way tied up in these things. I don’t define myself by them and I don’t become attached to them.
They get tossed and donated just as easily as all the others.
If I lost it all tomorrow I wouldnt give a damn. It’s just stuff, who cares?
I guess it depends on your definition of Materialism.

I tell my kids all the time “your memories are in your heart and in your head, not in that thing.” So when my Great Grandmothers crystal vase was smashed it wasn’t surprising that I swept it up and binned it just like any other broken glass.
When Princess lost her little gold signet ring at a Birthday party I said “It’s gone, don’t worry about it” The alternative is to get upset over something that is replaceable.
I have also been known to say “if it’s broken get rid of it!” So when I caught Actor nonchalantly putting his laptop in the rubbish bin, ontop of yesterdays spaghetti bolognaise, because he dropped it and smashed the screen I have no-one to blame but myself.
I have taught my kids that things mean nothing and as a result they can be infuriatingly calm when their possessions are lost or damaged. Their calmness can be perceived as a total lack of regard for the things we work hard to provide. Their blasé` attitude is totally my fault.
Finding the balance between materialism and absolute disregard for possessions is a struggle. Every time one of the kids says ‘Get rid of it’ I am simultaneously glad that my kids are not defining themselves by their stuff, but also slightly horrified that they seem to believe that laptops and iPods grow on trees.

Sometimes I feel that in the lesson of materialism I am failing miserably. It seems such a contradiction to say ‘Don’t cry over spilt milk, but you’d better cry over your lost iPod.” I don’t know what the answer is; I can only hope that they grow up with an appreciation for the hard work that provides our nice things, whilst not allowing those things to define who they are.

Remember the Spiderman figurines that Actor worked his little tooshie off for? He paid over $80 for them and worked for months doing additional chores daily to earn the money to pay for them. He picked up the lay-by about two weeks ago and yesterday he donated them.
I have no doubt that he remembers how hard he had to work, but he now feels that he doesn’t need them and wants to give them to some little boy who will love them. No qualms about it.

I might not be failing so miserably after all.

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One Response to Things and Stuff

  1. Pat Smith says:

    OK Rachael, I have finally found the point that I disagree with you. Well maybe not disagree but come from another point of view.

    I grew up with a mother who worked full time with four kids like yourself. However my mother did not have any of today’s conveniences and every night after dinner my mother would be sewing our clothes, knitting our jumpers, doing the ironing, whatever needed to be done. My Mother made nearly every stitch of clothing we wore till we started work and earned out own money. I spent many many years coming to terms with throwing out clothes. This showed massive disrespect to the efforts of my mother, silly you may say. I can now see that someone may need my ill fitting clothes more than I do.

    Easter – the Easter Bunny brought one egg each. That would be the only Easter Egg received
    Christmas – this may be the new bathers for the summer, the new socks and jocks and maybe a book or game. No presents from extended family – they were struggling also. I remember one year when we received a hairdryer to be shared by the three girls.
    Birthdays – this was when we got to drink soft drink and had two shop bought cakes each.
    All our stuff was very special to each of us.

    This is not an ‘oh poor me story’ but it is to point out that to keep stuff is not necessarily about being materialistic, for me its about love and respect. As for stuff that once belonged to someone else, I have a number of pieces of great sentimental value that has stories attached to them, when I look at them they stir memories of loved ones I have lost, the way that a photo does. In fact, just this morning I was looking at a quilt that contains fabric that was my Mother’s, this bought a tear to my eye as I remembered her.

    When I asked my daughter if there was anything she would like from my treasures, she politely told me that “they were my memories, not hers” so I guess one day my treasured memory joggers will be sent the way of all “stuff”.

    I must admit I am quite different to most of my friends, I don’t enjoy shopping, I can easily justify not buying stuff and I like to think that by reusing, recycling, and repairing that I am doing my bit for the planet, even if not doing my bit for the economies of China, Indonesia, Vietnam or wherever the goodies come from. – XP

    PS – How I wish I could write like you.

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