As we prepare to embark on our travels, we are once again getting rid of stuff – selling it, giving it away, donating it and throwing it out. It is always a wonderful feeling to lighten the load. We’ve done it twice before, so this time it’s easy. We know how to do it and we don’t have nearly as much stuff.
America’s consumer culture exploded after World War II, when all those GI’s came home and began buying houses in the suburbs. Back then the average middle-class home was modest, nothing fancy, two bedrooms and a bath, not at all like the McMansions we see today.
The odd thing is that the size of the average family is smaller today than it was back them. So why are houses bigger? The answer is simply, we need room for all our stuff. Think about the people who keep a $40,000 car in the driveway because their garage is crammed full.
Okay, I understand. Stuff accumulates and suddenly the house is overflowing. We’ve all seen those reality shows where people live in a jungle of junk and need professionals to hack their way in and haul away the clutter.
Stuff becomes a responsibility. We can’t get rid of it because it once belonged to Aunt Beulah or the grandchildren might want it someday. We feel guilty just thinking about discarding it. We can’t take a vacation because if we’re gone too long someone might break in and steal some of it. We can’t afford a vacation because the cost of maintaining our giant storage locker of a house continues to climb. Ultimately we find ourselves being held prisoner by our stuff.
That’s why getting rid of it feels so good. It’s like being released from prison.
For us, traveling about, living in other people’s houses, enjoying their stuff, can be environmentally satisfying. If we need something, we buy it, second hand if possible, and then when it is time to move on we sell it or donate it to a local charity shop. We try to keep stuff moving with the hope that it will be useful to others. It just seems like a nice way to share.
We know plenty of people with big houses overflowing with stuff. If that makes them happy, great, but I suspect that some of them may secretly dream of the day when a big fire cleans out the house so that they too can escape the responsibility.
©2016 David Lee McMullen