Stuff (items, objects, belongings, nik-naks) contributes to a wide variety of problems. Stuff harms our environment during its production, existence and disposal. Stuff causes us significant anxiety in our homes when we have to sort through it, clean it and ultimately declutter it. Stuff can have an emotional stranglehold on us, making it impossible to get rid of but a burden to live with. Choosing stuff for others is anxiety-provoking, receiving stuff from others is anxiety-provoking. To be honest, we would all be better off with less stuff. Here’s why.
The story of stuff is THE place to start for the lowdown on exactly what stuff does to our planet. Every piece of manufactured stuff that exists has used energy and materials to be produced, packaged and transported. When purchased, energy is used to travel to and from the shop or for delivery. Whilst in our homes, stuff will likely require some form of maintenance. With a lamp for example; electricity will be required to power it, the bulb will need to be replaced periodically and it will be wiped down and dusted at regular intervals, requiring cleaning products and utensils.
There is no Away
- Once we have finished with it, if we pass it on then the chances are more energy will be put into sending it somewhere and then further maintenance by its new owner.
- If we don’t pass it on and we recycle it then energy will be used to recycle it into something else, where the whole process will start again.
- If we cannot recycle it and we decide to dispose of it, sending it to landfill, it will continue… existing, taking up space, serving no purpose.
Plus the chances are when we donate, recycle or dump stuff, we replace it with more stuff. Apply all of the above to every single manufactured item, you can start to see how stuff is overwhelming our planet and it’s resources.
The Gift of Stuff
Gift-giving and receiving is a complicated tradition that can occur several times a year and between multiple people with varying relationships. When choosing a gift for someone else you are trying to get them something that you think they will like, whilst also taking into account an untold number of considerations. Can you afford it? Will they be offended by how much or how little you spent on it? Will they have space for it? Do they already have one? Will somebody else buy them the same thing? Are they expecting a gift from you? Will they now feel obligated to get you something? Are you spending as much on them as they will spend on you? Perhaps you ask them what they want, to avoid getting them an unwanted gift, but is this then putting the pressure onto them, having to come up with something. It’s hard to ask for something if you’re unsure of a person’s budget.
Clearly, it’s not all doom and gloom and giving gifts can bring a great deal of joy (at least it did until you read this), but buying stuff for another person is not easy. Neither is receiving gifts. When on the receiving end, if you love it you have to make sure this is properly conveyed, if you don’t love it you likely have to pretend that you do. If you already have it do you tell them or pretend otherwise? Stuff in your house that has been gifted by others then has to be used, displayed and talked about. Regardless of how much you love it, the chances are you want to pass it on at some point, do you feel able to? Any of these questions can induce anxiety when buying for others and receiving from others and the outcome is, you guessed it, more stuff.
The Stuff we Value
Stuff that holds meaning can be a minefield for many of us. You set about decluttering a room in your house, then you come across; photos, old birthday cards, memorabilia, souvenirs, old school reports. Basically anything that reminds you of something or holds meaning in some way. You never look at it, other than when you are decluttering. You try and decide whether it ‘sparks joy’, thanks Marie Kondo (if you know you know). If it does, you now have to find a place for it and maintain it, if it doesn’t you have to decide how you are going to let it go.
A Stuff Solution
The intention in writing about the (seemingly endless) pitfalls of stuff is not to make you feel guilty or force your anxieties to the surface, apologies if it has done either of those. There is no one size fits all solution, but perhaps consider the following; experiences over stuff, buying second-hand stuff where possible to at least eliminate the production, some of the transportation and the packaging involved in creating new stuff and to mostly only give second-hand stuff to others.
Make your home your own version of minimalist (with a sideline in house plants of course). Just make sure however you choose to live, you don’t let stuff get on top of you.