Why Do I Need So Much Stuff?

Finding the bottom of every drawer.

Photo by chuttersnap on Unsplash

My husband and I decided about two years ago to remodel our home. We spent a few months searching for another house to buy but couldn’t find a perfect fit in a price range we could afford, so we decided to remodel what we had instead.

Our idea was to create the perfect home for us and our taste, especially after viewing what others had done to their own homes. Yikes. It turns out not many people have natural talent in interior design.


The left WAS my kitchen; the right WAS my family room.

The contractor was hired, the sub-contractors hired, and the start date was decided.

The contractor blindsided us right before Christmas when he informed my husband and me that we would need to pack up the entire house.

I don’t think I understood the scope of the job at the time. I could not understand why we would have to pack up everything we owned when we were simply remodeling.

But, I did as I was told, and I packed up 17 years’ worth of crap in less than a week, starting on the day after Christmas.


Questioning Everything

For each and every possession in my house, I asked myself a series of questions and made decisions regarding the fate of each item.

  1. Did I still want the thing in my hand?
  2. If the answer was yes, then was the item coming with us to the temporary house, or was it going to the storage unit? (2 decisions)
  3. If the answer was no, then was the item going: in the trash, in the donation pile, or was I going to give it away or could I sell it? (4 decisions)
I was exhausted every day from the sheer volume of questions asked and answered while packing.

Each closet, drawer, cubby, and shelf held so many things. One drawer in my kitchen had 10 wine openers. Ten. Wine. Openers. We ended up with ten corkscrews because whenever we’d go on vacation, we’d “need” a new wine opener for the hotel room, and for some reason we always felt the need to pack it into the suitcase and bring it home. In hindsight, we probably should have asked the front desk if they had one we could borrow.

We had pens and pencils numbering in the hundreds, if not thousands. Three kids times how many years they started the first day of school with brand new supplies.

Crayons were stuffed in every drawer and many found in bedrooms, under beds, and even in the girls’ bathroom.

You need scissors? We had 20 pairs.

We still had sheets in the linen closet with doggies and kittens imprinted on them. The kids were in their late teens at the time of the remodel. Why hadn’t I taken the time to weed through the old stuff and donate it sooner?


Only Joyful Things Allowed

When everything was packed up and the house empty, I vowed that only things that bring me joy every time I see them would be allowed back in after the remodel was completed.

That vow lasted for as long as I could control what was coming into the house. With two kids and one more who moved back home temporarily, I couldn’t keep up with the daily deluge of stuff pouring in, especially after each child began pursuing new hobbies. Yes, plural.

Soon, I gave up on my promise, and the end result is a house full of stuff I don’t want, don’t need, and doesn’t bring me joy, and many, many duplicate possessions (see pens, scissors, wine openers paragraphs above).


One of Each

Whenever I rent an AirBnb, the rental house has precisely the right amount of things in order to be comfortable for the duration of my stay. The last AirBnb I stayed in had precisely four towels, linens for two weeks, one corkscrew, enough dinnerware, pots, and glasses for a family of four, one salt shaker, one pepper grinder, one kind of vinegar, and one kind of oil.

There wasn’t any sea salt, pink Himalayan sea salt, sea salt flakes, Kosher salt, Morton salt, rock salt and salt infused with wine like in my spice cabinet. There was only one kind of salt in one salt shaker.

And yet, I survived.

There weren’t bottles overflowing the shelves with apple cider vinegar, red wine vinegar, white wine vinegar, standard issue white vinegar, rice vinegar, and balsamic vinegar. There was only white vinegar.

And yet, I survived.

The owner of the AirBnb had olive oil — never did I find avocado oil, walnut oil, coconut oil, canola oil, vegetable oil, spray olive oil, Pam, spray canola oil, sesame oil, nor any toasted sesame oil.

And yet, I survived.


Less Stress With Fewer Possessions

Despite the relative scarcity of stuff, I had everything I needed at the AirBnb. I was happier with fewer things and I was less stressed.

I was less stressed because there were fewer choices to be made on a daily basis. The stuff that was there was what was there, and there wouldn’t be anything else.

You get what you get and you don’t make a fuss.

Whenever I visit an AirBnb, I’m reminded of the book by Mary Ann Hoberman called One of Each. Oliver Tolliver has precisely one of each item he needs and he doesn’t feel as if he needs any more until he makes a friend, and then he adds precisely one more thing for the additional person.

Somewhere between the philosophy of an AirBnb owner and Oliver Tolliver, I need to fall on the spectrum of stuff ownership.


Day 14 of the 30 Day Blogging Challenge I dared myself to start (and finish).