This past Saturday, I had dinner with a few friends from home. Afterwards, I went back to my one friend’s house to watch the movie Snowpiercer. Of the group I had dinner with, he’s by far the one I’m closest with. We’ve been friends for literally half my life and he was in our wedding party. He was one of the first people who ever knew I was trans. I was around 16 when I told him and I really didn’t even know what it was I was trying to tell him at the time.
After watching the movie, we went down to his basement and were talking about his reasonably extensive record collection. This kind of thing happens rather often when I’m at his house and our conversation went more or less the same as it usually does when we talk about records. I mentioned that the older I get, the less I want to own. Not records, everything. It’s not the first time I’ve said this, but I find myself saying it more and more lately.
Owning stuff really doesn’t make me happy at all. In our culture, we’re all supposed to want more and be perfect little consumers, but I’m simply not interested. Currently, I own kind of a lot of stuff. I use very little of it, but I’ve kept most of it around “just in case.”
My wife and I rent a two-bedroom townhouse. One of these days, we’ll buy a house, but that’s been a bit on the back burner until we figure out where it is we even want to live. In the meantime, we’ve got more stuff than we know where to put. I believe the last time I went up to the attic, I came back down with a firm declaration that we’ve officially hit capacity up there. Our downstairs closets are beyond full. I even have my bike wedged between the furnace and the hot water heater. Trying to remove anything from these closets results on a very cartoon-esque avalanche of crap. The closet in our second bedroom/office is just as bad, possibly worse, and my wife’s closet is straight up exploding. While my dresser is exploding with clothes, my closet is still rather empty since my entire wardrobe was literally (_literally)_ started from zero a year ago. This is my last free sanctuary of available space and I am guarding it with my life.
We have a lot of stuff.
I don’t know where I accumulated it all from, but it showed up over the years. Despite the fact that we have central air, we have two window air conditioner units. We have a spare dining room table and chairs. We have two waffle makers. I have at least ten computer motherboards, two dozen hard drives, and half a dozen optical drives laying around unused. I could go on and on, but I’ll spare you from an inventory of our belongings.
Owning this stuff is nothing less than a burden. It takes up space that we don’t have enough of. We can’t find places to put new stuff when we get it and we can’t get at the stuff we already have because it’s crammed into a closet somewhere with a bazillion other things in front and on top of it. When we moved here, we packed a 17’ U-Haul truck so tightly that I’m fairly certain there wouldn’t have been enough room left for a matchbook. And this was after I had already made five or six trips back and forth in my car. When we leave here, it’ll be the same story.
I hate this.
With few exceptions, none of this stuff makes me happy and I use very little of it. Things like my computer, phone, iPad, and camera enable happiness for me, but their mere existence in my life does not provide any value or happiness. These items enable experiences, emotions, and connections, but they are, themselves, nothing more than portals to those feelings. The rest of the stuff? It’s just…there. It’s taking up space. It does nothing for me. And I don’t want it anymore.
This is much of the reason I don’t like collecting things like records. Sure, I don’t have the interest in collecting anything right now anyway–I used to have a rather large movie collection–but I, mostly, just don’t want to deal with it. Collections take up too much space and require too much…I don’t know…thinking about.
I used to big a huge gadget and technology nerd (still am, but not in the same way). There was a period of a couple years where I had six computers running in the house. Six. I used to come up with all kinds of reasons why, but I couldn’t give you one good one right now. I guess, I just always enjoyed playing with computers and gadgets and crap. Even when I was just a single-digit number of years old, I loved it. But a few years ago, I tired of dealing with maintaining them. I still liked playing around with things, but it became a burden instead of something I enjoyed. A hard disk would die in my server and I’d spend two days juggling around a pile of drives so I could eventually re-build a RAID5 array. Or I’d spend a night trying out a bunch of different distributions of Linux instead of having dinner with my wife. It was easy for me to say I enjoyed it and it was my hobby, but I struggled to admit the reality that I felt more like a prisoner to my computer setup than anything else. These things took over my life. When they didn’t work–they never did because I was always fucking around with them–I would stress over it and let it ruin my whole day. I wouldn’t be able to go to sleep at night until everything was fixed.
These days, my setup is much simpler. I have my MacBook Pro as my main computer, an iPad for reading, all my photos and music stored on a Drobo, and a Chromecast (which I just got to replace our Boxee Box that recently died) for playing video on the TV. I have two different backups that run automatically to keep my data safe and I don’t worry about it. This setup requires almost zero maintenance and it makes me happy.
To quote Fight Club, “the things you own end up owning you.” This couldn’t better describe how I feel. To repeat myself a bit, this stuff is little more than burden. Not only does it not make me happy, but it actively takes away from my life and my happiness. I wouldn’t be surprised if, one of these days, I got completely fed up with it all and carried 80% of the things I own out to the dumpster. And if that doesn’t happen, I’ll certainly purge most of this stuff the next time we move. Some of it I’ll sell, but most of it will be trashed.
I don’t think I’m being particularly radical or pioneering in my desire to rid my life of most possessions and I certainly am not thrilled about sounding like a hippie, but this is just where I’m at in my life. If I don’t need it or I don’t use it, I don’t want it anymore. I would much rather spend my time, energy, and money on experiences…and food.