Too Much Stuff

The area where I live is constantly under construction because it’s highly sought after. We still have relatively low taxes and house prices compared to a lot of other up-and-coming American cities.

Most of the time, construction is annoying, ugly, and loud. Sometimes it’s exciting, like when a store comes in that I will actually go to. But lately, it seems like giant storage units keep getting built. The nice ones where you can keep your stuff in a climate-controlled environment, like Ample Storage or CubeSmart.

I understand the point of storage units as a temporary solution when you are moving or dealing with the possessions of a relative who passed away. However, on the whole, I have always hated storage units because to me, they mean that you have too much stuff and instead of paying to store it when you most likely won’t look at it again, you really should sell it or donate it or throw it away.

One of the few TV shows I like is Storage Wars, in which a group of crazy people bid on abandoned storage units in the hopes that they will find treasure that they can sell and make a higher profit than the other crazy people who also bid on storage units.

Although it is a lot of fun to watch these crazy people find cool and rare stuff in the storage units, the show also makes me depressed because the original owners of the storage units had so much stuff that they actually had to pay to keep it somewhere. Much of it is mundane, like clothes and sports equipment and children’s toys—stuff that probably could have been gotten rid of rather than confined to a storage unit.

Storage units also remind me of my grandma, who put a lot of her stuff in storage because the places she lived didn’t have space for it. I remember the depressing times that were spent going to the storage unit (not one of the high-end ones) and sorting through all of her things, which were mostly costume jewelry and clothes that had gone out of fashion a long time ago.

My grandma was born before the Great Depression hit, and because she was a child of that era, she probably wanted to keep everything in case something happened to the stock market again. But as she got older, the stuff presented a burden. It exhausted her (and probably made her feel sad) to go through it and relive the memories attached to it.

Being there as my grandma went through her things made me resolve to never acquire so many items that I would have to store them outside of my house. I don’t often buy “things” for me or “decorations” for my home because when I walk into a retail store, I imagine most of the stuff in there 10 or 20 years from now, sitting in someone’s garage or storage unit, abandoned and forgotten.

Also, I don’t see the point of buying new household items and decorations when I am set to inherit much of my mother’s (and probably mother-in-law’s) things when they eventually downsize. My mother always reminds me, “You’ll have all this stuff when I’m dead.” I keep remembering my grandma sitting amid her pile of stuff at the storage unit, exhausted and depressed, and honestly, I just feel bad.

As the old saying goes, “The more you own, the more it owns you.” “Stuff” can enhance your life, but I feel like most of the time, we would do well to think twice about what we buy and whether we really need it, or if it will just end up sitting abandoned in a storage unit or garage for many years.

Materialism and Conservation

Here’s a thought-provoking post from the Humans of New York blog that pretty much sums up my views on “stuff,” even though I don’t consider myself a big “save the environment” type of person. I have never understood the rage about the latest iPhone/iPad/iPod/i-whatever. I have a Samsung phone, and it’s pretty old compared to the newest version that’s out there (I have no idea what version they’re up to now; I can’t keep up), but it still works just fine, so there is no reason to get a new one. Same with my computer. I’ve had it and its components for several years. It’s a bit slow, but it doesn’t bother me because all I use it for is Internet, music, and word processing. No need to go out and buy the latest laptop (even though they are very shiny and tempting) just because it’s new.

Clothes are the same way, to a certain degree. Back when I had my fast food job, we had to wear a uniform that was supplied by the restaurant (except for the pants). I remember thinking that this was a brilliant excuse to never go clothes shopping again because I would not need fancy clothes to dress up for work. But when I got an office job, clothes shopping once again became a necessary evil.

The Humans of New York post also says “‘materialism’ implies that we value our possessions. And we don’t. We get rid of them…” This is true. For many electronic devices, it is cheaper and less of a hassle to throw them away and buy new ones rather than fix or replace them, probably because the companies want you to shell out the money for brand new devices. Or we just don’t care and treat our stuff poorly because it is so easy to find a new one and replace it. You can order one on Amazon and have it shipped to you the next day.

I think “materialism” could also apply to our food supply and how we treat the animals that provide us with their meat. The industry produces an incredible amount of food, so much that it cannot be eaten (or bought by those who cannot afford it) and is therefore wasted. We also (and I include myself in this “we”) throw out a lot of leftovers because we don’t feel that there is any true need to save them. Fresh, new food is five minutes away in the nearest big-box grocery store.

I could go on forever, but my main point is that a lot of this “materialism” and “consumerism” is because we live in a convenience society, and the most convenient option is to throw it away and buy a new one.