Do you ever look around your house and feel claustrophobic? I do. Particularly on Christmas afternoon, but throughout the year as well. I'm not a hoarder or a compulsive shopper or into knick knacks or collections, but, Damn. We have a Lot of Stuff.
I have always been naturally drawn to minimalism. In theory. And I think I could embrace it as a lifestyle, too. I would love to clear my life, for once and for all, of the clutter. But I can't. And it's not because I have these emotional attachments to my things or anything like that. It's because I am in the Accumulation Stage of my life.
It was after college that I really started accumulating things. First, it was a husband and all of his Stuff. Bins of stuff. Bins and bins of stuff he hadn't looked at since he left his parents' house, but couldn't let go of either. I had my own bins, too, of course...not to mention the wedding presents. We moved the bins and wedding gifts into our first house and began accumulating furniture. And Decorative Accents, because we had all of these bookshelves and coffee tables and nightstands now. We might as well buy something to put on them.
I wasn't thinking that, one day, children would come and their stuff would become decorative accents anyway. Which brings me to my current position in the Accumulation Stage: Life with Children. Before you have kids, you look at your friends with kids and you think: Why on earth does it take them so long to leave the house to go anywhere? It's just A BABY. How hard is it to put a BABY in a CAR SEAT and Just Go to the mall? But once you have kids, you realize it's not the baby that slows us down...it's the baby's stuff. Where's the binky? We need two in case one touches the ground. Better bring three. We need at least one extra outfit, but remember the blowout yesterday morning?! Better bring two. Grab the diapers and wipes. Where's the Sophie teether for him to play with in the car? And his links. Bring the links in case he's not interested in Sophie today. We should bring a blanket and jacket in case it gets chilly. Don't forget the stroller! Bring the jogging stroller because we'll be walking a lot, but bring the travel system, too, in case he falls asleep in the carseat. We'd hate to have to wake him! By now, the stores at the mall are all closed, but that's okay because you clearly have everything you really need anyway.
But you don't. That's the thing. You always *need* something. And not just groceries and disposable things....What is it about parenthood that makes us keep buying more things? We can't just NOT buy our kids Christmas presents, or Birthday presents, or You Went PeePee on the Potty presents, can we? Not really. I mean, the stuff that entertains my three-year old today won't necessarily entertain him a year from now. But I'll hold onto his outgrown toys for his little brother....so we can't just replace things, either. And I know what the argument to that is: Kids don't need more toys. Take them outside! Take them on Nature Hikes! Tell them stories! Give them an empty box and let their imaginations run wild! Okay. I get it. But I'm a stay-at-home mom with a three-year old and a seven-month old. My reality is that my Big Boy isn't a run through the field kind of kid. He's a play with trucks in the dirt or kick a ball or slide down his slide kind of kid (More Stuff). And an empty box and an imagination are great, but there's also a lot of "Mommy help me make this a car" that comes with the box and imagination...and sometimes Mommy doesn't have time to help him make that into a car. Sometimes Mommy just needs him to play with his fire house and fire men while I put the baby down for a nap (More Stuff).
And what about older kids? What about the stuff THEY accumulate? I just had a conversation with my mom about this. She has eight kids. Two of us are totally out of the house. Two were out but have returned home temporarily. One is out now but may be coming home. One is away at college but comes home on breaks. One is home but leaving for school next fall. And One is at home in high school. My parents' house is like a revolving door of Stuff. My mom is a total neat freak, so she's quick to purge the unneccessary clutter (has to be with eight kids!), but the amount of stuff that comes into and out of their house is insane. BUT....it's not My Parents' stuff.
My mom is in the De-Cluttering Stage of her life and I'm jealous. She told me that she recently gave each of my four brothers a large bin. In each bin were all of their trophies, medals, and other assorted sports-related memorablia from their Little League days. "Keep 'em, Pitch 'em, whatever," she told them, "but do something with them because they're YOURS. Not mine."
And I thought to myself: Oh my god. I haven't even begun accumulating my boys' trophies. Or report cards. Or school pictures. Or handmade clay pots with "Happy Mother's Day" written on the sides.
I think we're going to need a bigger house.