I want to become a minimalist (or: Why does my stuff mean so much to me?)

Recently, I watched Minimalism: A Documentary about the Important Things.(I think you can buy it on itunes or something, but in true minimalist style, I downloaded a torrent version then passed it on).

And it’s kinda rocked my world. On one hand, anyway.

On the other hand, it’s left me wondering why I have so much shit? Why am I keeping it all? Who’s going to get it (or even want it) when I’m gone?

Between us, Jeff have so many collections, most of which are in storage boxes collecting (literal) dust in the garage.

  • Rollerskates that are to big/small/used
  • Rollerskate wheels that we used when we started skating and wouldn’t bother using anymore
  • Rollerskate tools that we don’t need
  • Fabric
  • Rolling Stone Magazine collection (especially with Pearl Jam and Nirvana)
  • Saws, nails, tools I wouldn’t know what to do with
  • Suitcases filled with, actually I have no idea what they’re filled with – their in the roof area of the garage and we don’t go near them
  • Costumes and dress up boxes
  • Jeff’s CDs
  • Containers full of tech bits – cords, cables, computer parts
  • A video machine we don’t use because it’s guts are ripped out (but Jeff will fix it one day)
  • A pool table we haven’t used in 3-4 years
  • A pinball machine I’ve wanted since I was a kid but I never play it (but I own it!!!)
  • Old paint cans
  • Paint tools
  • Spare tiles (just in case we ever break one in the house)
  • Lots of spare things that are going to our spare, I mean, our holiday house
  • Clothing that doesn’t fit but that is super awesome and was super expensive
  • Bikes, including spare bikes, that we don’t ride.
  • Wool and knitting needles
  • Furniture
  • Record Collection
  • Obsolete stereo parts that no longer work
  • Computers the size of a space station
  • String
  • Comic and card collections
  • More nails
  • Old manuscripts for books that have been printed and published
  • Copies of newspapers and magazines with my articles
  • A box of flyers and passes for raves that we’ve been to or have been involved with
  • Boxes and boxes of photos – the old printed kind.
  • Shoes. Seriously. Shoes. (But what if a friend needs a pair of super high heeled shoes? What if she can’t rely on me?)

We’re not hoarders, but here’s our garage (a 4 car garage that has not seen a car since we moved in here 8 years ago).

You get the (very blurry) picture(s). Right?

All this stuff is so heavy, you know? It feels heavy but I don’t know why. I mean, it’s in the garage, or in boxes, or a cupboard. As long as I don’t look at it, what’s the problem? How does it affect me from day to day?

I don’t know. That’s why I’m writing about it. Writing helps me process it all.

So why do I hold onto this stuff?

It’s not that I hate owning things or that I find the idea of ownership to be too middle-class or whatever. For example, Jeff and I love art, and we surround ourselves with it. I have no problem with that, and our love of art has spawned a love of art in Holly, our “adopted” adult daughter. So that can’t be bad. I feel as though we’ve passed on something positive to her, and that’s super nice.

So do we keep stuff because of ego? You know, I’ve got all this stuff, how cool am I? (Hey check out Jo and Jeff; they have the coolest XYZABC).

Maybe. But I’m not sure (lemme check that one with my therapist).

What if I hold onto everything because I’m holding onto my past? I think we’re on a winner with this idea.

Is it that the only way I’m going to live on is through the things I own? Are my possessions the only way of recounting my history when I’m gone?

You see, as we get older, most of us have kids, so we have an audience for our stories, and someone to leave our stuff to. We tell them about what we wore, we show them the VIP passes from gigs, we give them gold earrings that once belonged to our great, great, great grandmother (yes, seriously). We pass on a book, and show them photos of who we were in our 20s, 30s, 40s, when we looked so AMAZING. And they lament that we got rid of the raver pants and (some of) our vinyl collection.

If I’m going to be honest, this is what it’s about.

Other than Jeff, I don’t have anyone to leave my crap to when I’m gone. No kids. No close relatives who I would burden with the old magazines and unloved craft accessories. Holly won’t really want my magazine collection and spare wool. Would she?

I always loved my mother’s button tin. I’ve even raided it in recent times to replace crappy buttons on good clothing. Just yesterday, mum gave me her great great great grandmother’s earrings, as well as my baby earrings. There was something truly beautiful in them, in knowing who they belonged to (even if neither of us had ever met my great great great grandmother). But the knowledge  that I have a history that spans generations has value, even if it will end with me.

So what of the collections in the garage? They’re not gold, or diamonds, or even (Jeff’s mum’s) awesome Avon collection.

A couple of weeks ago, I sent more than half my linen closet, my clothes and shoes to the op shop or the bin. It was a superb feeling. I have no regrets. Anything that didn’t make me feel great went off.

But I fear regret (is that double regret?). What if I get rid of something and regret it later? Even if I sold it and made money, I might want it, or show it to someone.

I got rid of a TONNE of books at a garage sale around eight years ago when we moved into this house – many of them sold, many went to some organisation who gives books to people who can’t afford them (this was pre-Kindle, when fiction books in Australia were $26.95 apiece). I’ll admit that it took me a long time to get over it. Jeff did the same when he left the States. He left a lot behind when he moved over here in 1994. Now that his mum and step-dad have passed and he probably won’t see a lot of his stuff ever again, I wonder how he feels about that? Does he lament a lost past (his army uniforms?).

So what am I supposed to do with SO MUCH STUFF that keeps me feeling trapped?

Would having an organised, minimalist garage matter? Would getting rid of the unplayed piano that houses art books, sculptures and other memorabilia change my life? Does owning all this stuff actually fuck with my life?

I know there’s something super rewarding about getting rid of things. I know because I’ve done it SO MANY TIMES. But why do I feel this grand need to do it, once or twice a year? I have a friend whose home is filled with memorabilia: crucifixes, art, ceramics that she’s made and that she’s collected, etc – and I LOVE her home. There’s something comforting in the clutter and chaos.

What if, one day, someone finds the same comfort in my clutter and chaos?

What if, one day when I’m gone, someone finds a way of getting to know me through my stuff. Do I really need minimalism? Or am I looking for a way to hone what I have so that it has meaning? Maybe the start of my “minimalism” is to just get rid of shit that means nothing to me – the nails, the saw, the string, paint cans – all of those “just in case” items, and really focus on the things that do – the comforter that Jeff’s nanna made for him.

Maybe it’s about really loving the things that are important, and hoping someone will care for them, even for a moment, one day.

It’s time to pull Jeff’s nanna’s comforter out of the linen closet and hang it on a wall (it’s too small to use), and my great great great grandmother’s and my baby earrings are going to hang gratefully from the extra holes in my ears (yay to being a rebel!).

But there’s are a lot of empty possessions in the garage. Maybe those things can go. Maybe we can curate the rest as if they were for a gallery.

We all want to make a difference. Even the craziest of serial killers are looking to make a difference. Otherwise, we wonder, what are we here for?

Jeff and I will live on in the minds of some. But we’ll be largely forgotten, because we had no kids. I feel sad about that. But there’s very little I can do about it. So I’d better live a great life while I can.

So I wonder, when I’m dead will Holly care more that I left her a collection of Rolling Stone Mags, or that I baked a really cool red velvet oreo cookie dough cake?

I wonder.

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