Sunday, October 18, 2009

Sunday Scribblings - 10/18/09


One of the peculiarities of modern life is the concept of junk.  Our houses are larger than ever, so we have more space to put things.  Something about human nature compels us to fill all the space we have and consume, consume, consume.  So we acquire endless amounts of 'stuff,' some useful and some not so useful.

Roger Ebert wrote a good blog recently about his very large collection of books.  He knows that many of them are doing nothing more than sitting there, but he can't compel himself to throw them out.  Each of his books means something to him, even if he hasn't read it in years or at all.  I think that post is as good as any to illustrate our love-hate relationship with our things.

Are these habits natural or are they learned?  I know I see patterns in behavior among people I know.  I'm not naming names, of course.  I think the way a family deals with 'stuff' can determine a person's reaction to 'stuff' in his or her own life.  One either takes up the same habits or rejects such habits after living in a house full of 'stuff.'

I think part of this is simple human nature.  It's much easier to let things pile up than take the effort to put it away, categorize it, remove it, deal with it.  Organizing things becomes a 'later' activity, but for too many people 'later' becomes 'never.

I'm in the middle of the spectrum, I think.  I do have a lot of stuff, that's for sure.  On the other hand, I'm not afraid to go through things once in a while and cut out what doesn't belong.  Like Mr. Ebert, a lot of the space in my room is devoted to books.  I do re-read books, so I don't have a major reason to get rid of them.  The big problem for me is acquiring more books.  I love nothing more than a used book store or used book sale.  I have a huge to-buy list which grows all the time.  The problem isn't just the number of books, but the size of the books.  A large coffee table book takes up the space of two or three paperbacks, at least.  Thick books take up a lot more space than thin books.  One must be an expert in making the most of the space available.

Another reason to keep 'stuff' is that 'stuff' has a lot to do with memories.  This is not necessarily bad.  I think we should keep things that mean something to us.  But when does it go too far?  I tend to keep all the holiday cards I receive over the years.  I was surprised to find out that many people do not.  I suspect most of those will disappear someday.  If the only thing the card says is "Happy Birthday!," does it really have a reason to be kept?

I also have a large collection of newspaper and magazine articles.  I've kept a good number of issues of The Hockey News.  I haven't re-read a single one, but I can't help but want to keep certain issues.  I'm sure most of those could go as well.

I think I mostly have the right approach.  It's OK to keep things around, if you have the guts to go through it all once in a while and reassess what needs to be kept and what you still want to keep.  Opinions change, emotions change, and priorities change.  Our collection of 'stuff' also needs to change.

No comments: