Feeling at Home in Your Home, Part IV: Stuff=Time

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 If you’re just now reading, I challenge you to go back and read the previous posts first. 

We’ve been wading through the komono category, and at least for me, it hasn’t been fun.  That dreaded miscellaneous category is SO expansive.  This time around, we’re looking at some more personal things, some of which have the potential to be sentimental. 

Here’s what we’re examining:

o    Kitchen items

o    Hobbies

o    Seasonal items

Kitchen Stuff

I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve bought too much kitchen stuff in the past.  Yes, I have a dehydrator and a bread machine and a yogurt maker and many more things that take up space.  I’ve not used some of those things in YEARS.  I tend to come back to them, though, and I do have space for them.  I just.can’t.bring.myself.to.get.rid.of.them.  So there you have it: I’m a total hypocrite! 

Let’s dig deeper.  What does that stuff mean to me?  I like what all of it represents: time, working with my hands, industry, and affection for the people who live in my house.  I like the thought of using an ice cream maker because it seems like something special I can do with my kids or for my kids.  I like the idea of doing things myself too.  The catch that I’m finding is that sometimes you hit a point in life when you just don’t have time for the thing.  Is the ice cream maker taunting me when it sits there, making me feel like a bad parent for not using it?  Am I better off just buying ice cream from the store and enjoying eating it with my kids?  Maybe.  I just don’t know. 

What I’m getting at is this: when companies sell kitchen stuff it isn’t always about culinary convenience.  Kitchen stuff (as well as other things for the home) is often attractive because it implies a lifestyle that many of us are hankering for—a life of ease and leisure with people we love.  Slow dinners at night, enjoyed in the presence of others (not in front of a screen).  A life in which you have time enough in the day to cook and to nourish yourself properly.  A life where you have the time and energy to do the most fundamental thing: eat well.  Kitchen stuff represent time and love and creativity.  A fullness of life and the things we hope for.  But sometimes, we lose track of the fact that while kitchen stuff can represent or facilitate those things, kitchen stuff is not itself those things.  There’s really no substitute for being in the moment with yourself or other people, is there? 

So I’m looking at all those contraptions in another light.  No—I’m still going to keep my yogurt maker because, well, it makes me happy—but I am going to remember that it’s not the yogurt maker I want at the end of the day.  It’s a bit of quiet.  And it’s being with those I love.

That was unexpectedly sappy.  Moving on!  Go through your drawers and toss those old utensils that are rusting or broken.  Give away anything that you don’t love and don’t use.  Clean out that kitchen clutter!

 

Hobbies

Are hobbies going the way of the dinosaur?  Do we have time for hobbies anymore?  My suspicion is that screen time has gobbled up our time and energy for hobbies.  I really hate to admit this publicly, but I often watch something at night (like most of America).  There are so many good books to read, and I’ve been lusting after doing some artwork again, but…by the time I’m done with work, cooking dinner, cleaning up, getting kids to bed…I’m exhausted and I feel like I can’t muster the strength to do anything halfway interesting.  Enter the tube. 

I HAVE “hobby” materials—watercolors and pastels and palates and all sorts of stuff.  They’re sitting in a cupboard downstairs, lonely and ignored, just waiting for me. 

The situation I’m describing is one in which stuff is being ignored and it probably shouldn’t be.  I know I’ve been a big advocate so far of not letting stuff boss you around, BUT hey, we should absolutely feel guilty about some things in life.  Regret often provides needed correction.  Maybe I need to make a change and have a date with my art supplies.  I’m going to start by going down there and looking at them lovingly.  I’m going to get rid of old stuff and reorganize so that I can find things.  I’m going to get it all together and then schedule some time on my calendar to get back to it.  After all, culling and managing your stuff is really all about reclaiming your life!

Seasonal Items

                Let’s be honest, how much seasonal stuff do you have?  Do you have 11 santas and 20 St. Patrick’s Day garlands?  This is purely anecdotal, but I’ve found that a lot of people fall into either two camps: those who don’t do any seasonal decorating, and those who do too much of it.  Personally, I think a little “seasonal” touch is just fun, but there is such thing as tooooooooo much.  How much is too much?  Well, for starters, if your Christmas lights are still up in February, you should rethink whether you have the time to be seasonally spicy.  If your stuff takes up more than the space you have for it—meaning, you can’t actually see what you have because it’s all piled up, then you have too much. 

The problem with the seasonal stuff is the enduring problem of modern production: seasonal stuff is cheap and extremely variable.  Stores pump out new stuffed animals and candies for Valentine’s Day, top hats and green foods for St. Patrick’s Day.  Peep-flavored milk and toy baskets at Easter prove that companies will churn out whatever they can in increasing amounts whenever it seems like there’s a remote possibility of selling something.  And we somehow have to show some restraint in the face of all of this shiny funness so that we don’t head home laden with all these things that we don’t know what to do with.  Have a few things that you really love if you’re going to seasonally decorate, and don’t buy new stuff unless you’re 100% in love with it. 

In going through the seasonal stuff in my house, I found a TON of stuff that I didn’t even like.  Most had been given to me (like hand-me-down tree ornaments and other Christmas decorations).  It felt really good to take those things, say thank you, and get them out.  I really don’t know why I put them up every year—out of obligation?  Because it was the only seasonal stuff I had? I don’t know.

 I found broken down Easter baskets and plastic egg halves that were missing mates.   I found more trick-or-treating buckets for Halloween than kids in my house.  This is crazy, right?  It feels good to get that stuff out and create a little space.

Parting Words

I’m finding that I’m saying the same things over and over, and that should be an indicator of importance, shouldn’t it?  Buying and managing stuff isn’t really about stuff.  It has everything to do with ourselves: about managing and understanding our desires and hopes for life.  For me, managing stuff is about having time with people I cherish.  I want less stuff so I have more time.  Man, why is this lesson so hard to learn?  Because we’re pelted with advertisements on every side; we’re told that we can’t live without stuff.  I want to live slower, freer.  I want to be above all that hype and to spend my time well.  I don’t know about you, but I need to breathe slower too, and I really do think that being careful about the stuff I have in my life is key to what I want.  So I’m letting go of stuff and holding on to my time and the people I love.  I hope you can do the same.

Next time we’re going to tackle a really hard category, but one that motivated this blog to begin with: the sentimental stuff.

Surround yourself with joy my friends,

Shenandoah

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