Saturday, June 10, 2017

Possessing It All

I know four families who are moving this summer. Three are downsizing. Sorting ensues upon mountains of collected this-and-that.

Surprisingly, these families report astonishment at the number of items they possess that they forgot they owned, and haven't seen in decades. This mass of belongings has to be dealt with as there is no room for it in the new lodgings.

Sales abound. Give-aways to friends and families. Stress, labor, and money go into finding ways to dispose of material possessions, most of which probably should never have been procured in the first place. The money wasted in buying and then discarding the goods, whether sold for a fraction of the cost or given away, floors me.

Let me be clear, I understand acquiring useful things. Art, tools, furniture, clothing, and other things that have a place in day-to-day living. Even souvenirs. No, I'm referring, in this post, to things which cause a near obsessive urge to obtain but which quickly lose their sparkle, only to be relegated to deep, dark spaces for storage. Not sold or given away, kept. Possessed.

As one who is not into possessing things for the sake of possessing them, and as one who prefers clutter-free living, I am a bit mystified and amused by the degree of overwhelm these families face.

"We have so much stuff we haven't used in years!"

"Why are they stupefied?" I ask myself. Don't they see this stuff kicking around their home? Where is it kept that they aren't aware of it? Do they really have a black hole somewhere where useless-to-them items are stored out of sight?

My mindset differs dramatically. Because I have a pack-rat husband and four children, I regularly clean out and tidy closets, the storage shed, my attic, drawers, and cabinets. Before I buy anything I ask myself where will I store it? If I can't find a good answer, I rethink the purchase. I don't understand the possess-and-store mindset at all. Is it compulsive shopping? Is it keeping up with the Joneses? Is it a desperate need to be trendy, fashionable, ahead-of-the-crowd? Is it an insecure show of wealth or power? Is it a deep-seated fear that someday the obscure item may be needed so you'd better keep it or you'll be in big trouble, as if you couldn't go buy one if that day ever came? Or, is it perhaps, the sheer joy in acquiring a shiny new object? The hormonal rush?

What is the psychology behind the need to posses things? There seems to be some sort of gratification in acquiring and holding onto certain items. Does it make people feel superior? "I have [fill in the blank] taking up space and gathering dust in my [fill in the blank] and you don't. Ha!"

It isn't uncommon for family members to aggressively battle over estates of the recently deceased. These disagreeable tussles make me think there must be a perceived power in grabbing things from others' hands, and then, just having them forevermore. But how is that power? Unless the item is somehow useful and needed, what is the gain in storing it? In having it? People hoodwink others out of clothing, vehicles, trinkets, heirlooms, tools, furniture, sports equipment, photo albums, and other memorabilia. They store these things. These things collect dust, take up space. One day, they will have to be jettisoned as excess baggage.

Where is the sense, the logic in possessing unneeded, unused, unimportant things?

I stroke my chin in wonder.

In case you are wondering about the fourth family, yes, they are upsizing.  A larger house awaits them, its spaces filling up with.....stuff.