Don’t Be Defined By Your Dining Set – #3 In The Achieving Emotional Grace Series

Don’t Be Defined By Your Dining Set – #3 In The Achieving Emotional Grace Series

“That’s all your house is: a place to keep your stuff. If you didn’t have so much stuff,
you wouldn’t need a house. You could just walk around all the time.”
~ George Carlin

I’ve never been one to keep stuff. I was raised by a couple of minimalists who came out of the Great Depression (as opposed to the Mediocre or Meh-Not-So-Great Depression). They  realized that owning possessions can be a fleeting thing and it can all vaporize with just the bad intentions of a couple of greedy bankers.

Yeah, THAT could never happen again, right?

Yeah, that could never happen again, right?

Now, don’t get me wrong. This aversion to owning a bunch of stuff is not rooted in any sort of noble goal to make the world a better place. Nor is it coming from some philosophical belief or my life-long study of Immanuel Kant.

(That’s right, bitches, I got me some Wikipedia!)

I’ve always had a bit of an obsession with being able to put everything I own in the back of a car and take off at a moment’s notice as if I lived the life of some seedy criminal, needing to steal away from a broken down motel under cover of night.

Ultimately, it’s always just been a sign of freedom and independence for me to travel light and not get too attached to things.

My tidy little bubble burst when I got married. Of course, even if you marry someone who has the same minimalist mindset, you still end up with twice as much shit.

It’s pretty hard to avoid unless you are marrying a Buddhist monk. And I wouldn’t recommend that. They are super hard to buy for at Christmas.

I, on the other hand, did not marry a minimalist. To his credit, he is one now (probably because I threw out all his stuff while he was sleeping).  But, at the start, not so much.

When we first moved together to a new house, I watched in horror as we filled up both our cars plus a fair sized U-Haul.



Here’s a sampling of a typical conversation that day.

“Why are we keeping all these random pieces of wood?”

“Because it’s perfectly good wood.”

“But what do you plan to do with it?”

“I was going to make a book case out of it….or something.”

“We already have a book case. And, you don’t know how to build stuff.”

“But, what if in 30 years I decide that I want to learn carpentry or whatever and I find that it’s a huge talent I never even knew I possessed? I’ll need wood for all the awesome furniture I’ll build in my new career.”

“Have we packed the vodka yet?”

Thanks to a healthy combination of booze and compromise, I pushed through the crisis and no one was harmed.

I still have an overwhelming urge to purge. I lose sight of myself if I’m sitting in clutter and start to feel oddly invisible.

I’ve started to realize that I’m allowing my discomfort with clutter to define how I feel about myself. And, at the end of the day, is that really any different than someone who is happiest surrounded by a lot of stuff?

Tomato/tamahto – we have the same affliction at the end of the day. It’s internal definition by outward elements.

I shouldn’t be defined, or define myself, by my possessions or my lack of possessions. Both are false representations of who I really am.

My fear of being weighed down by material items must be some indication that I have issues with commitment, right?

Maybe I have some weird sort of ADD and get distracted way too easily by objects in general.

Or, perhaps it all boils down to some psycho-sexual Oedipal complex. Can women even have an Oedipal complex?

How the hell should I know? I’m not a therapist. I barely even own a couch!

I do suspect, whatever the core reason is behind it, that any reaction that is not within a moderate spectrum warrants closer examination. Getting too much pleasure from buying stuff or feeling too much joy in getting rid of it, is indicative of something else.

Hoarder, minimalist or monk. I guess the bottom line is to be sure it’s a choice and not a band-aid.

“I flipped through catalogs and wondered:
What kind of dining set defines me as a person?”
~ Chuck Palahniuk – Fight Club



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19 Responses »

  1. I wish I was married to a minimalist. We recently moved and I am looking at 20 boxes belonging to my husband that haven’t been unpacked in four moves. I’m not sure if I should move them to his office where I never have to deal with them again, or build a bonfire in the back yard and chuck them in. Surely he won’t miss them!

  2. I sort of hate stuff too, but I love to buy it so it’s confusing. I keep an empty drawer or shelf in every room in the house … it makes me feel a little bit better, almost like I am keeping things to a minimum … except when I can’t open the drawer next to it.

    • I have the same affliction! I do love shopping! I’m always feeling very conflicted. I like the empty drawer idea but suspect I would end up just sucking at it though.

  3. Oh.. I feel a little out of place… Me? Yeah, I’m a saver. Never know when you are gonna need that. Wait! Yes! Yes I do know when I am gonna need that. About a week after it gets tossed. Then I can have the pleasure of purchasing a new one, (that won’t be of the same quality as the old one) Yes, it probably is my mother living in me.

    The reproduction? We refer to that as “our house threw up again”. Just cleared the counter off and what happens? The house threw up again. I have a small house that I have lived in since 1986. I am proud to say I am the only one on my block who actually puts 2 cars in my garage every nite. Half of them use the garage as storage (I do too but still have room for the cars) and the other half use it as extended living space. And frankly just looking around my garage gives me moving anxiety. :/

    • I’m not touting minimalism, just making sure there aren’t any underlying issues to whatever path is most comfortable for people. I know that my minimalism covers other anxieties that have nothing to do with what I own. Lord knows if I’ll ever figure out what I’m supposed to do with the info though!!! 🙂

  4. Possibly the *only* benefit of moving house every 18 months is that you keep getting forced to ask yourself “do I care about this box of stuff so much that I’m willing to lug it up and down stairs YET AGAIN??!”

    All part of being in the IT Consulting witness protection program… you wouldn’t want your old customers being able to figure out where you live… 😉

    • It’s true! That is the best part about moving….thing is, I really believe that somehow it’s all organically reproducing when I’m not looking. (And, your true identity is safe with me.)

  5. I admire people who don’t have a ton of shit in their house. I’ve read about them but have not actually seen that in the real world. I aspire to that mindset, especially my husbands stuff, it can all go.

  6. I try to minimize my stuff because we live in a small house (and will probably be moving to an even smaller house), but it’s haaaarrrrrd. I have too many hobbies, which exacerbates this problem, and I keep a full wardrobe in three different sizes (skinny, average, and bloat). But I feel you on the minimalism philosophy.

    • Oh I’m with you on the clothes! I’ve tried to keep it to two piles – “normal” and yoga pants. I figured once I realize I’m limited to the yoga pants pile, I’ll shame myself into getting back into the normal pile. Or live the rest of my life in spandex….

  7. I totally get your compulsion to be able to pack everything and leave– I don’t know how I keep accumulating so much crap because I feel like I sell and give away so much junk every season. I got rid of a ton of things before I took a 9 month backpacking trip a few years ago and everything I owned fit into one tiny storage unit… I have reaquired a ton since then BUT… I still don’t own a couch. My guests sit on the floor with pillows because I like to keep it classy.

    • I try to do the one-in/one-out approach. Nothing new gets bought unless something else goes. Same with TV for me – I have a solid stable of stuff I watch and I can’t add a new one unless something gets cut from the rotation. But, you’re right, somehow it seems things just reproduce when you aren’t looking!!!

  8. I was a pack rat as a kid (stuff meant things to build arts and crafty stuff with) and as an adult, I’m a purger. However, my purger mother (who could’ve had the courtesy to keep at least a few outfits from the 40’s-70’s for her vintage-loving daughter) inadvertently taught me to save a few choice things for some of the young people I love and who one day just might enjoy.

    • I think quality over quantity is a wonderfully moderate way to look at it. I got a huge box of dress up clothes from my aunt when I was little – cocktail dresses and formals from the 40’s and 50’s. Man, I wish I had that box now!!!!

  9. My parents are Boomers. I am a Millennial. There’s an entire generational gap between me and my parents, and it’s largely defined by the fact that I am constantly, CONSTANTLY purging my house of unneeded things and hearing my mother’s voice in my head flipping out because “How can you get rid of that?!? It’s perfectly good!” My father just built a new workshop three times larger than his old one so that it’ll hold all his stuff. It’s already full to overflowing. My mother talks about how much stuff my sister and I will have to go through after she’s dead and gone, but she won’t DO anything about it. Me? No. Emotional commitment to inanimate items just ain’t my bag, baby.

    • It’s interesting how we either buy into or eschew how our parents handled issues. As long as it’s authentic to you, it’s all good! How my parents dealt with materialism must have somehow spoken to who I am at the core or I could have gone in the other direction. I’ve got a one in/one out rule – can’t buy anything new without getting rid of something else first!

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