21 August 2006

"A House is Just a Place..."

"A house is just a place to keep your stuff while you go out and get more stuff." Wise words of a 21st Century philosopher.

The liquid airplane bomb threats reveals that most of us bring our stuff with us. Or at least we try to bring as much stuff with us as possible. The Washington Post examines the modern compulsion to never leave home without "it," concluding that we are a multi-tasking people, unable to be truly free because our attachment to stuff makes us both poor and overburdened.

I notice my own addiction to stuff when I pack the car nearly every time I leave the house: A book bag of books to return to the library, a mini-lunch cooler so my water doesn't boil in the parked car, a bag of medicines to take to my mother to refill her weekly dispenser, another to-do bag with a magazine in case I get stuck someplace, a sketch book and pencils. I like to have a digital camera along, too, but it requires a battery charger, as does my cell phone. If I'm teaching that day, I'll need my Land's End canvas briefcase overflowing with student papers and lecture notes. Invariably I have a meeting that day with a team of people I'm working with on a workshop which necessitates another canvas bag of notebooks and sources. In the back seat is an ever present red Scoth-plaid metal lunch box with wet ones, contact lubricant, nail file, napkins, a straw, a mirror, blush, a headband for "bad hair" afternoons, and anything else I can cram in and still close it.

The Post explains that we are all carrying more stuff, so I guess I'm not alone. The proof is found in the bookbags with wheels now manufactured not just for graduate students with 600 pounds of books, but for the grade school set. Children have actually been injured by their over filled bookbags.

Are we an insecure culture? Do we lack a basic trust in ourselves to make it back home? Home to our stuff?

I've tried this month to cut back on the stuff. I emptied my car, threw all the stuff in a box, and put only the ESSENTIAL stuff in the center console. I'm not even going to say what I think is essential. Trust me, it is. But I still cart those canvas bags for each occassion on the multitasking day ahead.

I have successfully made a habit of tossing out salt and ketchup. Unlike some people (you know who you are) who keep these "food" items lest you starve while your car hangs precipitously over the edge of cliff after you've skidded off the road during an ice storm, not to be found for five days; all because you read a story in the paper about the guy who lived for five days on ketchup and odd fries that were lodged in his seat cushions in an identical situation. I've seen your car parked next to mine, and you, too, could use a little unpacking.

A little advise on what not to carry is here at your finger tips. Good ol' online wiki of information. And other swell links can be found at 43 folders. Let's not stuff ourselves with too many links. Just empty your pockets and your glove compartment. Give it a month. If you need something, take it out of the box and return it to the car or bag. If you don't need it in 30 days, you don't need it. Free at last, free at last.....


MP said...

I'll have to listen to the procrastination link later. I like the "stuff you carry" note. A couple years ago I downsized everything..and fee much better about it. I think I'll blog on that topic myself!

kelley said...

So that's what was in the red plaid lunchbox...