There’s a trend circling the internet lately, of personal minimalism. Having less is more. Things are useless. Owning one t-shirt and one pair of shoes means you’re winning at life. Decor is a pointless fallacy of man, and owning things it to be owned by those things. Your stuff is vain and ridiculous, and by extension, you are a terrible person. You’re a peacock.
Okay, I’m a peacock. So what? Maybe there’s a reason for my things; those useless trinkets you look down on and smugly think how much quinoa and craft beer you could have bought with the money I spent. In fact, there is a reason – two of them. And here they are.
Not having things – useless, decorative things – recalls two very dark periods in my life:
When I was young, my mother would routinely take away my stuff as punishment for anything she had perceived me as doing wrong. Talk back? Take my stuff. Didn’t do my chores? Take my stuff. Bad day at the deli? Take my stuff. Every night before I went to sleep, I would pack up a bag of my favourite items and hide it under my bed. This served three purposes: 1) if the house caught fire, I could escape with my favourite things; 2) if I needed to run away, I was already packed, and 3) if my things were hidden, my mother couldn’t throw them away while I was at school as punishment for something I had or hadn’t done.
When I was older, I moved to Calgary with little more than my clothes and a computer. I tried staying with relatives while I settled into a new city, but was kicked out of the house by my sister-in-law – I had to find a place to live, which ate most of my salary. I lived there for several years with next to nothing; sleeping on a donated twin mattress on the floor. I had no television. I also had no friends and no car and no cat, as I had to leave her behind in Victoria. My co-workers took pity on me and gave me household items so I could eat and get to work each day, but it still remains the bleakest period of my life – not so much because I didn’t have things, but because I was so isolated. My life was on the computer. If I looked away from that screen, I became immediately aware of how empty my life was – it was all around me in the form of a barren room with barren walls and dead silence.
That leads us to today: I have a lot of stuff. My home office is completely filled with things, each more ridiculous and useless than the last. There are boxes within boxes, all filled with a dazzling array of treasured crap – toys, childhood mementos that survived my mother, terrible fashion mistakes, ticket stubs, more Pez dispensers than the sum of all Pez I’ve ever eaten. The list is enormous, and to most people, a terrible mess of shit that I surround myself with and will one day inevitably die in when the earthquake hits and I am crushed by a mountain of Hello Kitty figures. Ed hates all my clutter – my move into the spare bedroom was brought on by my growing tired of his constant bitching about all my stuff, and his being fed up with my things. If he had his way, we’d have a sparse, modern condo: clean and empty with no trinkets or useless decor cluttering up the joint – just a neat, tidy home with ample space and extra income .. but since it’s not entirely up to him, we live with stuff. My stuff.
I am really bothered and offended when people get on their high horse and talk about how much better their lives are without stuff. I’d be much more accepting of the movement if every single article, tweet, Facebook update, and random comment about it wasn’t so fucking SMUG – look how advanced I am; I don’t watch TV or care about gadgets or fill my life with useless memories or eat meat or murder anyone, so I am clearly better than you. It’s always childless asshats who say this, because I’ve never met a parent who didn’t have things all over their house – but beyond that, there is nothing wrong with having things. Your bare shelves or walls do not make you better than me; it just means your defining life moments did not involve an attachment to stuff. Good for you. You’re lucky.
Let’s throw a hypothetical into the situation, though: what if you grew up with a traumatic life moment that meant you feel better when your pockets are full of raisins? The raisins don’t serve a purpose – you don’t like eating them, you just like having them around. They make you feel safe, and they’re fun at parties when you pull them out of your pockets and make people guess how many you’re carrying. Raisins aren’t expensive, and you can afford to have them by the pocketful. Sure, it’s a little inconvenient, but they make you feel better even if it’s kind of weird. Pocket Raisins certainly aren’t for everyone, but that doesn’t concern you at all – as long as you have raisins in your pocket, you are happy.
Who are we to look down on your Pocket Raisins? What you have in your pockets is of no concern to anyone but you, and if they make you feel better and maybe make up for some really terrible times in your life, who are we to write lofty articles about how life would be so much better for everyone if they just emptied their pockets of raisins? We’d be big jerks to do that, wouldn’t we. Big, condescending jerks who managed to get through life without raisin trauma and now preach that to everyone as a way of feeling better about our own empty pockets.
You don’t know me (well, maybe you do – I blog a lot), but I’m pretty sure until now you had no idea why I seem to collect as much shit as I do, and why I always have weird things lying around, and why my pockets are full of raisins. There’s a reason behind all of it, and I would really appreciate it if you would stop being so arrogant and snooty about how your life is fucking awesome because you don’t have things. I DO have things, and my life is also fucking awesome. My lifestyle isn’t for everyone, and I’ll be damned if I ever write a disdainful, presumptuous post claiming that people who DON’T own knick-knacks and random shit are somehow broken and missing out on the true meaning of life, and I would really appreciate the same from you.
My stuff is fucking awesome, and no one can take it away from me – there’s simply too much of it, and that’s okay.