I am becoming increasingly aware and to some degree dismayed by the amount of stuff that I have. I was reminded of this the other day when I looked at my richly decorated Christmas tree and realized that it would soon be time to take the tree down and put away all the shiny, bright ornaments until next Christmas. Being Ukrainian and observant of the old Julian calendar, that is usually done mid-January after the New Year celebrations of Malanka, or even as late as the week after, on the Feast of “Yordan” or the Blessing of the Waters.
In any case, I have a lot of ornaments to carefully wrap and put away, a lifetime’s accumulation of them. My grandchildren who helped me decorate the tree joked about the fact that there were so many ornaments and decorations, they couldn’t see the tree itself. As we grew as a family, we kept adding ornaments, both store-bought as well as hand-made, and none were ever thrown away or “retired”, except for those that suffered accidental breakage. Most have sentimental or symbolic value and, as retired seniors and grandparents, my wife and I would have a hard time parting with any of them.
But it’s not just Christmas tree ornaments; the house is full of stuff that my wife and I have acquired over the course of a rich and interesting life. Books, papers, souvenirs, art, photos and albums, clothes, tools, electronic gadgets, tapes, CDs, DVDs, appliances large and small, furniture, dishes, cutlery, ceramics, and much more. My closets are full to overflowing. The garage is so full of stuff that there hasn’t been room to put the family car in there for many years. The basement is overflowing with cartons of stuff put there years ago and mostly forgotten. I am overwhelmed with much more stuff than I could ever justify needing or using on a regular basis.
This realization is not entirely new, as in recent years, I have initiated a number of efforts to try and pare down on my large accumulation of stuff. I initially started by tackling the large library of books I had built over the course of my lifetime. I have always been an inveterate reader and had amassed a collection of several thousand books. Over the past few years, I have whittled this collection down by donating most of them to the local library or senior citizen’s centre. Nonetheless I still have several hundred books distributed over four bookcases and numerous cartons in my basement, that are resisting any attempts at being disposed of.
My most active current initiative has been to do something with the countless pictures that I have taken during a life of enthusiastic photography. I am fortunate that for the past few decades, these have been in digital form and take up little physical space. However, I still have several thousands of actual physical photos stored in albums and boxes that I have begun to scan and digitize. I estimate that it will take the better part of a decade to finish this task, presuming I have the patience to do so.
Another problematic area is with clothes. All the closets in our house are full. No matter how much we try to rationalize our wardrobes, we seem to make very little headway. A quick inventory of my closets, drawers and cabinets shows that I currently possess some thirty pairs of pants, two suits which I haven’t worn in years, some half a dozen sports jackets, about thirty ties which I seldom if ever use, at least forty or fifty shirts, sweaters, hoodies and tops of all kinds, and a dozen pairs of shoes, boots and footwear. A quick count of my sock drawers reveals the surprising presence of no less than seventy pairs of socks. How did it ever get this way?
A look in our kitchen and dining room cupboards proves to be no different. Do we really need eight frying pans, three dozen wine glasses, and enough dishes and cutlery to accommodate fifty people at one sitting? Will we ever use all the dozen or so vases collecting dust on our shelves?
The ultimate in overkill though has to be in the area of electronics. We are currently the proud owners of no less than two desktop computers, two laptops, four tablets, three printers, three smartphones, three large-screen TV’s, three DVD players, three stereo systems and numerous other electronic gadgets of all descriptions. It seems like nothing exceeds like excess.
No doubt about it – I have too much stuff for my own good. Doing something about it however will be a challenge. Fortunately, I have the rest of my life to take care of it.