Do my life’s belongings belong to me, or do I belong to them?

Longing for my belongings,

Out of sorts and not at home.

But now they’ve all arrived,

I feel myself and quite at home.

Now no longer longing,

There’s a question I must ask:

Do these belongings belong to me,

Or do I belong to them?

You’re right, with sheer, raw, poetic power like that, I really should just throw all my shit out and become a wandering muse, or just rap. Either way I’d kill it, and probably effect world peace within a year.

Unfortunately, it’s a bit nippy ATM for musing and wandering, and those battles tend to be way past my bed-time, so I’ll just stick to sitting on one of my two sofas and writing shit instead.

On the warm sense of feeling at home my stuff unexpectedly bestowed on me last Monday…

Today’s the two-week anniversary of my moving into my new home.

The house was pretty empty for the first week as I only had the car-boot full of ‘essentials’ I’d been living off during my three months between houses:

At the beginning of the second week, I had my stuff delivered from storage: a box-van full of it, a full 75 cubic meters worth of shit: so now the house is full of stuff.

What I hadn’t expected is that once the delivery guys had done there thing and disappeared. I felt right at home, which I’d realized I hadn’t done for the first week. I felt at home, just because my stuff had arrived: still mostly in boxes, but nonetheless, at home!

I’d already gotten over the fact that I couldn’t really call myself a minimalist with 75 cubic meters of shit in storage burning a £200 hole in my pocket every month in storage fees, but this ‘feeling’ at home once the stuff had turned up, this emotional response to just being in its vicinity, now that was a shock!

No matter that most of my stuff doesn’t really ‘fit’ in my new living room (my new house has probably more space, but smaller rooms than my old flat), it’s still now home.

In this post I’m just going to work through the pros and cons of having lots of stuff…… I really like the idea of being a ‘minimalist’, but I must seriously ask myself whether it’s for me! I am a very homely sort of person after all (I like building and grow your own and pottering) so are there any disadvantages to having lots of stuff!?!

The excuses I’ve made up to convince myself I need a box van full of stuff

I think these reflect different degrees of conscious reasoning and just subconscious compulsion.

  1. I’ll probably need it at some point in the future

I’ve got lots of stuff that fits in to this ‘excuse category’: my gardening stuff is probably the ‘stuff type’ which takes up the most room: I had an allotment for several years, and so I’ve got a lot of equipment (actually, did I pack my hoses, or ditch them, I can’t remember).

I’ve also got >150KGs of weight lifting equipment, which I can’t really use because the ceilings of my new house are too low. But, will I move at some point in the future to a house with higher ceilings: probably, and I imagine I’ll be doing circuits until well into my old age.

What’s maybe more dubious are my ‘boxes of junk’… lads will know what I mean: tins of screws etc. I think I might have to have an extra word with myself over this type of stuff!

 

  1. Most of it’s functional: it saves me time/ money, or even makes me money!

The washing machine is the most obvious item that goes in this category. NB – if you’ve never seen it, you MUST watch this Hans Rosling (RIP) video on why these are such awesome machines.

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The washing machine is the reason I opted for professional moving and storage… £400 to replace, and I just couldn’t move it on my own… without this, I MIGHT have been a bit braver with chucking everything else out.

Pretty much any item of kitchen equipment also fits in here, as well as tools of course, and the (two?!) bikes I’ve got.

 

  1. I just like it

Is there anything wrong with this as an excuse? I’ve got a couple of nice rugs I like, and my books (See below) also fit in here. TBH this is probably an excuse that applies to most other people more than it does to me. I’m not an ‘aesthetic’ kind of guy, more a ‘functional’ kind of guy. Probably one of the few ways in which I’m a ‘typical bloke’.

 

  1. It’s part of my identity.

Book, books, books… I remember a tutor of mine at university whose office only had half a shelf of books, it just felt wrong. An academic should have hundreds of books, and boxes of journals piled up…. I’m probably not going to read again most of the books I’ve got and have already read, but my ‘office room’ needs a good ‘wall of books’.

I quite like my pseudo-academic identity, and books are part of that.

I’ll cross the hurdle of the uneven floor that makes the shelves lean away from the wall later.

 

The downsides of having so much stuff

  1. The cost $£$!

Somewhat obviously, the more stuff you buy, the more it costs you! I’ve got no accurate idea how much I’ve spent on stuff over the last three decades, I haven’t been tracking for that long. But it’s thousands and thousands of pounds, several years-worth of my working life in terms of wages.

In terms of moving, I need to calculate whether it was worth me paying for two moves and storage for three months in relation to my stuff. I think all-in it cost me around £1500 (WTF!) – that’s a hell of a lot of money for just clinging onto stuff. I’ll save a more detailed analysis of this for laters!

 

  1. The stress –

It took me bloody ages to pack my stuff up when I moved: about three times as long as I’d planned for, and I remember just seeing it all rammed into that storage unit caused a stress reaction. So much so that I literally just left it all there without looking at it until the day before the second set of delivery guys were due to come and bring it all to my current place.

Now I’ve got it all here, it’s not so bad, but I can’t find various things (I didn’t pack very well!) – such as the T.V. Arial lead?! And the screws to put my office chair back together, and the mattress protectors.. well I have now, but only after spending £8 on a new one… I guess they have a limited life span.

 

  1. I’m concerned that I’m a victim of a society which has normalised materialism

I’m not sure I’ve freely chosen to live in a house full of stuff….I’m not sure any more if I freely chose to buy the products that make up this stuff…. Maybe I’ve just subconsciously picked up through socialisation that ‘home’ means ‘house full of stuff’ – picked it up from my parents’ house, ALL of my friends’ houses, and pretty much every media portrayal of domestic life that’s ever been on T.V….?!

OK, I’m not this bad, but… slippery slope?

 

  1. Time!

I’m not going to go into this in too much detail, it’s too terrifying. I’ve been quite irritated in the last couple of weeks at just how long sorting out stuff has taken me. It took me three hours to put my new bed together yesterday (that’s getting a shitty one star for assembly on the ratings)….. and one week of ‘stuffocation’ (yes, I know it’s the name of a book), I’ve still only unpacked a third of it.

On reflection, surely the real time-eater with stuff is the time spent shopping and choosing? I dread to think how much time that’s taken up during the course of my life!

 

Final Thoughts: is a box van’s worth of stuff even that much stuff for one person?

Open question: what dyou think? Is it normal to own so much stuff?!?

 

And a top bonus ‘nerd tip’ for your next house move:

Once your stuff is packed and in the moving van, this is the only opportunity you’ll have (until your next move) to conveniently weigh your stuff. All you need to do is find a ‘van weighing machine’, get the van to drive onto it, weigh it, and subtract the actual weight of the van itself (which you should be able to find online). Hey presto: you’ll have a snapshot of the weight of your stuff at the moment of moving house.

This information will almost certainly NEVER be of any actual use, but it might vaguely amuse your you and friends for a few seconds.

Image sources

Dystopian chair thing – https://www.georgianjournal.ge/society/31309-sad-reality-of-the-modern-world-illustrations-by-steve-cutts.html?slcont=3

Work Harder… https://www.lowimpact.org/materialism-how-to-let-go/

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