Thursday, December 9, 2010

My Stuff Dilemma

Part of the reason Target at Christmastime overwhelms me so much is because I've developed a new relationship to Stuff in the last year. I've become aware that the bulk of my time in my cozy little house is spent cleaning, redistributing and organizing stuff. We have four creatively inclined people between these walls, and so we have a lot of Supplies, from power tools, to Play-Doh accessories, to fabric and thread. We also have two American children with generous extended family, so therefor, we also have Toys. Jeff and I are vintage junkies, so we also have Collectibles. We all wear clothes and eat off dishes. Being aware of how much time and space Stuff Management takes makes me want to have less of it.

Over the past year, I've developed a peculiar attitude toward just about every object that passes through my home which makes the goal of having less more complicated. It used to be that when we weren't using something anymore -- an outgrown piece of clothing, a toy, a book I've read but won't again -- I would simply give it to one of our nieces, donate it to our church, or leave it on the porch for a local women's shelter that collects items for their thrift store.

But since last Christmas, Hubby and I have discovered that almost anything we have and don't want or need anymore can be sold on Craig's List or e-bay. This is lovely news for our budget, and it's thrilling to help make ends meet in this relatively easy way. The down side is that it makes every decision about what to do with our used things much more complicated. I also know that our church, which runs a resource center where local needy families can come and be given or purchase for a low price anything they need, actually has more stuff than they can find homes for -- random collectibles and household items that aren't meeting a need among our community's working poor.

Knowing this, I want to give where it will really help someone, and otherwise I want to sell it and help my family. Our church is very big on teaching the Biblical concept of stewardship: the idea that our blessings are not only for us to enjoy, but to manage well and use to bless others. So throwing things away is almost never an option. I don't like tossing something useful for both spiritual and environmental reasons. (Those of you who read me regularly know we actually rescue things from our trash enclosure and sell them, too.)

I'm beginning to think I've perhaps become a little obsessed with the Stuff Redistribution Dilemma, however. It's not uncommon for an item to sit at the top of my stairs (our house's version of Purgatory) for a week or more until I figure out what to do with it. Would my niece want this lavender terry cloth robe, or is there some little cold child that needs it? Would anyone buy my 1970s Crock Pot, or does that get donated as well -- or is it a fire risk? Is it possible to sell this hiking backpack that Hubby picked up for free at a garage sale (answer is probably yes on this one)? Should I donate this book I thought was kind of depressing, or would it just depress someone else?

So, you can see why Target's shelves upon shelves of home accessories, particularly of the seasonal variety, cause me so much angst. Knowing so much of it will end up in landfills or someone's stairwell purgatory distresses me. Worst of all, it could end up in a garage sale, and odds are, back in my house!

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