When I learned that I was having hip replacement surgery and would have to stay in California for awhile, I had to move out of my Paris apartment. I had to make decisions about what to do with all my stuff. Stuff to put in storage in Paris, stuff to throw out, stuff to sell, stuff to take back to the US.
In 1986, the comedian George Carlin did a comedic piece about Stuff. I remember laughing and identifying but never thinking it was a problem for me. But when I started putting all my belongings in different piles, it was a nightmare. I had so much stuff (I’m using this word on purpose because I can’t find a better one), I felt embarrassed and didn’t want my friends to see my living room.
I told my friend, Joy, that I couldn’t believe how much stuff I had. Her response was “Well, you like to shop, Sara.”
Confronted with such a huge pile of my belongings every time I walked into my living room, I couldn’t help but think and ponder. I realized that I have a hard time walking out of a store without buying something. I have a hard time passing a favorite store that is having a sale. I rarely buy retail. I tell myself I’m saving money. HA! The way to save money is to not spend it.
In France, there are two state mandated Sales (Les Soldes) each year. One in January and one at the end of June. Each one lasts about 6 weeks. These are not 10% off American sales. These are true sales that start with 30-50% off and go deeper as the weeks go by. I would count the weeks to the sales in Paris. I had my favorite stores. The first winter, I actually bought things I needed. Living in Paris demanded much different clothing than living in California. But as each sale came and I made my regular trek to each store that I loved, I started buying things that were lovely and nice but I certainly didn’t need. It was just that it was a SALE!
Then there is Emmaus. Emmaus was founded so that people who truly didn’t have much money could buy furniture, clothing, books, porcelain etc that they couldn’t afford anywhere else. Wealthy people donated their possessions–beautiful things. Somewhere along the line, Emmaus opened it’s doors to everyone. The large Emmaus that I like to go to is in Bougival, in the western suburbs of Paris. One had to have a car. I would talk Barbara into going every couple of months. I would find things there that I would never be able to buy elsewhere. And just because it was inexpensive, I would buy it. I never left Emmaus empty handed.
For almost a month I was dealing with STUFF. I went into a bit of shock. I felt like an addict. I cancelled a trip to Bougival. I was going to donate things but I was afraid I would spend money. I actually paid a friend to take clothing to Emmaus for me. I started unsubscribing to all e-mail communication that I receive from stores I like to shop at. I learned the January Sales would start a week after I left. Phew! I wouldn’t even be tempted.
I know I’m not alone with this problem. And I may not be alone that something happens that shines a huge light on a problem area in one’s life. I’m talking about it so that this information really sinks in. I promised myself that from now on, before I take my credit card out of my wallet, I would ask myself “Do I need it?” “Where will I put it?”
I won’t do it but it might be interesting to calculate all the hours I have spent in my life dealing with my stuff. All that time. What will I do with this extra time? For right now, I have empty out my garage of Stuff that I don’t even remember that I have. I have to clean out a large storage area that also has things I haven’t thought about in three years. I don’t have to worry about what I’ll do with my time. I just have to worry about doing it before my surgery!!