“A sociologist friend has the theory that people spend the first 40 years of their life enthusiastically accumulating and the next 40 years trying to get rid of the excess.” (Scaling Down, by Judi Culbertson and Marj Decker)
So….I’m right on schedule.
I laughed out loud when I read this quote, because I really do fall into the timing they mentioned. I’m not sure the word “enthusiastically” would have applied to my accumulation of stuff; maybe “mindlessly?” “Carelessly?” Sometimes it flat-out sneaks up on you; you turn around and are shocked: when did that happen? How did all this stuff get here?
I started thinking recently about when we really started accumulating stuff. We did well for years; we had what we needed without a huge amount more. Five moves in seven years helped a lot. Our housing also dictated simplifying: no basements in our first two apartments and first two houses meant no basement storage. (Technically, that last house had a cellar–an open from the outside, Wizard-of-Oz type of cellar. But I never even went down there in the year-and-a-half we lived in that house; I definitely didn’t want to use it for storage. Eesh.)
It was the next stop when it all started. Everything conspired against us: bigger house, full basement, five years to accumulate things, and (the biggest reason): we had kids. I say that not to blame the kids, but the reality is that “stuff” began entering the house at an exponential rate. When it’s just you and your spouse, it’s pretty easy to stay on top of things. When you throw two kids into the mix…. Think about it. It’s now extra everything: from plates and cups to towels and toothbrushes to beds and blankets. And that’s stuff you use; it doesn’t include things like junk mail and party favors and broken crayons and dead markers and no-more-sticky stickers…..you get the idea.
I would definitely prefer not taking the next forty years to get rid of all this excess, although I’m recognizing more and more that it’s a continual process; it’s not like one day you suddenly stop bringing things into your house. It will be a constant….”battle” seems too strong a word; maybe “routine” is more optimistic? Just consistently, routinely staying on top of it. I do think I need to dig out a little more before I can get to the “staying on top of it” part, though.
On a side note: Scaling Down is one of the most thoughtful books I’ve read on getting rid of “stuff.” It’s written mainly for those who are entering their retirement years and are preparing to truly downsize, but they recognize in their introduction that their book can be helpful for anyone, and it absolutely has been incredibly helpful for me.