My (Non)Problem with Stuff

I have a problem with too much stuff. As in, I have too much stuff, I buy too much stuff. I am, in many ways, the model consumer. I collect random things. I love quirky eccentric kitschy items. I love pretty things. I love clothes. And I really love books. I have far more clothes than will fit in my closet. And at last count (over a year ago) I have approximately 3000 books. Not to mention: dolls, stuffed animals, porcelain figurines, old magazines, every scrap of paper I ever wrote on, posters I have rolled up and stored everywhere because I don’t have enough wall-space for them, old childhood toys I don’t have the heart to get rid of, and tea pots (yes, I collect tea pots).

This is a problem for several reasons.

First: I am not wealthy. In fact, I am pretty damn poor. I try not to go overboard with my spending, and I’ve never gone way off the deep end with debt. I maintain a careful balance by buying a lot of things on clearance and during sales and hoarding gift cards I get on various holidays. I also don’t buy many things at one given time, but because I keep everything, it has added up to quite an enormous hoard.

Second: The fact that I am poor makes it even more ridiculous that I am so materialistic. And it’s painful. I stare through shop windows. I watch HGTV shows and cry. I see my more financially-stable friends go on trips abroad and resist the urge to scream. I torture myself with wishlists on Amazon and Etsy. All the while, berating myself for the times I do give in and spend money. Envy is forever my cardinal sin of choice.

Third: (and this is the thing that instigated my current train of thought) it is hell on earth to pack and move all these things. And that, right now, is the crux of the problem. I am packing again. For the seventeenth time in my life. Between being a military brat, and being too poor to stay with one lease for long, I have moved sixteen-going-on-seventeen times. Sixteen houses or apartments in my life. Sixteen-going-on-seventeen times that I have had to shove the truly astounding amount of stuff I own into a truly ridiculous number of boxes, and cart them around, and unpack them all, just to eventually pack it all up again. I cannot begin to express how stressful and exhausting it is to pack an entire life up every one-to-two years. (And this time I don’t even know where any of it is going to go, because I don’t know where I’m going to living in 2-3 weeks. I may very well be homeless in 2-3 weeks).

But the real problem is that these are the reasons I have so much stuff to begin with. Am I not making sense? Probably not. But I’ve thought about this a lot. Growing up poor, living paycheck-to-paycheck, always wanting things I couldn’t have, and watching friends get them when I couldn’t, created in me a deep respect and desire for all those things. When, from time to time, I was finally able to have those things, I couldn’t resist. Ever. And once I had them, I certainly wasn’t going to get rid of them in garage sales or donation piles or the trash. Ever. On top of that, the fact that we were always moving — that I have spent my entire life moving, that I have lived in six different states, and have never lived in the same house for more than two years at a time — meant that I never had a home.

Home is a foreign word to me. I have friends who lived in the same house from the age of three until they married at the age of twenty-five. I have friends who have known the same people since pre-school. I try to imagine what they must be like, and my mind boggles. My imagination simply cannot stretch that far. I don’t know what it feels like. I remember moving to a new city and a new house and a new school in the summer between sixth and seventh grade, and thinking: that’s the last time I’m crying over a move, over a house. And I have never again become attached to a place. Ever.

Instead of a home, I have my things. My stuff is my home. I surround myself in the things I collect and buy and save. Wall-to-wall bookcases filled to brimming. Figurines and dolls and posters and tea pots atop every available surface. And that is my home.

So to say I have problem is not entirely accurate, because I don’t think I could stop even if I wanted to — and I don’t want to. It’s the only sense of stability I possess. I just wish it didn’t cost so much money. And wasn’t so damn hard to move.

too much stuff


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