Too much stuff? Love it and leave it!
Stuff: 1) any general or unspecified substance or accumulation of objects or 2) property, as personal belongings or equipment; things. (http://www.dictionary.com)
In any case, I had way too much of it a few years ago. Just where did this obsession with gathering begin? Is it a hand-me-down behavior from our cave ancestors that started with useful things and slowly moved on to more useless items? Before I moved to China four years ago, I went through a progression of unstuffing myself. Maybe that’s not a real word but it does the trick for what I am trying to say. From a house on two acres of property full of twenty years of collected items to an apartment in China with the clothes on my back. It was a lot easier than I thought it would be to get to this point. But let’s start at the beginning.
Divorce..half the world has been there. At the time I divorced, we owned a large house on two acres of land in rural British Columbia, Canada. Inside that house was more “stuff” than a person could imagine after twenty years of marriage and two grown children. I bought out my ex’s half of the equity and handed over half the items in the place. Even then, after cutting our collection of Christmas ornaments in half, giving her the children’s books, much of our art collection and boxes of useless knick knacks, the house was still full. Not to mention that the house was way too big for one person anyway. What was I thinking? So I moved to a smaller townhouse on a small property in town. This led to Garage Sale Number 1.
It was at this point that things got serious. We had boxes of items that had been stored away for probably ten years. Why, I asked myself, were they still here? They were the first to go. I don’t even remember what was in them but if something has been sitting unnoticed for that long, it certainly can’t be important to daily existence. The garage had old skis and boots, skates, broken toboggans, excess garbage cans that were more garbage than can, containers of dried out paint, old windows, and numerous other wonderful, used things. We had also gone through goats, chickens, dogs and cats over the years so there was a lot of paraphernalia associated with all this wildlife as well. One man’s trash is … yeah, people showed up the day before to be the first to pick through this collection of beautiful pre-owned collectibles. I swear that this is an undiagnosed illness…this penchant for seeking out and buying more stuff at garage sales. Most of the items we got rid of that day were destined for the dump. This “sale” saved us a trip. But it was not to end there. I soon realized that we (I now had a girlfriend that would eventually become my new wife) didn’t really even need a townhouse, a little apartment would be plenty big enough. So on to Garage Sale Number 2.
It was at this point that anything extraneous disappeared. There were lots of things I didn’t need any more if I didn’t own a place with property. I gave away any remaining art to my ex-wife and/or friends. I said if I ever want it back or want to look at it, I know where to find it. The same thing happened with the photographs. There was no way I was going to move twenty years worth of picture albums again. Out went the inside and outside tools. Lawnmower..gone. Hammers, power saws, paintbrushes…gone. Anything too big to fit into a small apartment…gone. I felt this weight lifting off my shoulders as my pile got smaller. We made a lot of people happy that day. We weren’t in it for the money, we just wanted to get rid of the …well…stuff.
And then a few months later, we got the call out of the blue. How would I like to teach in China. An international school was looking for a science teacher and, if I took the job, it would start in less than three weeks! I had a great job in Canada but was looking for a change. Plus, it would get me as far away from my ex-wife as possible! Twelve time zones away, to be exact. Halfway around the globe. So I said I would take the job and then proceeded to organize Garage Sale Number 3. But it was not to be…
The local hospital was looking for an apartment for long term rental for any visiting locums, doctors filling in temporarily for others that were away for one reason or another. And they were willing to give us a price for everything we wanted to get rid of in the place…art, camping equipment, cutlery, dishes, etc. That way the visiting doctors could step into an apartment that would have most of what they needed on a day to day basis. OMG, how lucky was that? We walked around the place and made a price list for everything we owned. When the hospital representative arrived the next morning they agreed to pay us the asking price for all our “stuff”, lock, stock and barrel. It was as easy as that! No garage sale, no cleaning up, no packing. We left the next week, with a couple suitcases each, to our new home in China, where we have been ever since.
So now I am free, free at last. No property and no stuff. Oh, I get the occasional desire to buy something but it soon goes away. It will always be in my memory; I don’t need the physical object. I can move anytime and anywhere without worrying about the hordes of belongings most people have. And to think that some people actually rent storage space to put stuff away for the long term. What the hell? I am so far past that point that I cannot return.
So is my obsession with collecting and owning things totally gone forever? Not really. But now it takes place in the virtual world of Second Life. I have been actively involved in this virtual world for several years. I have a large island property and a modern house filled with virtual ceramics, paintings, and sculptures. I own several cars and a large yacht for exploring the oceans and continents of this virtual reality. At last count, I had over 12,000 items in my “inventory”. I can buy things, create things and throw away things. But when I turn off my computer, it’s gone. There is no mess, no fuss and I can access it from anywhere in the real world at the touch of a keyboard!