I don't know if it's a New Years resolution thing, but many of the blogs I read have launched into anti-stuff campaigns this month. Take this recent post from SortaCrunchy:
Cookbooks? Gone. I find my recipes online now. Waffle iron? Gone. I never made waffles anyway. Three sets of measuring cups? Gone. How about just one set? ... Our vision is to be able to open the door to anyone, anytime, and not give a second thought to what the house looks like.... when you don't have much stuff, you don't have much to pick up or clean or stash away when the doorbell rings.
Having a lot of stuff, having nice stuff, and having so much nice stuff that you worry about it... I don't know, I can't really relate. At the risk of being judgmental, I'd say this sounds like a rich person problem.
Dan and I have a small house and a growing family, so every few months we look around and say, "Can't we get rid of anything?" We poke through the closets, stick our head in the basement, and always come up with the same answer. No. Everything we have is tools for something else. If we get rid of something that means we can't do something.
You never hear a farmer saying, "You know what? I only use that rototiller once a year - I should really get rid of it." No, he'll say, "Thank God for that old rototiller in the back of the shed! There when I need it!" I'm sure he doesn't fret over the energy flow in his organizational space.
Similarly, I've heard knitters or seamstresses feel guilty over a raw materials stash too big, but never about keeping too many scissors, needles, or seam-rippers on hand. The fact is you need stuff to make stuff. If you really want to cook three meals a day you need more than one set of measuring cups. If you want to make or mend clothes you need a desk full of supplies. And if you really want to grow your own food from seed, well, then you need a basement filled with pots and rusty tools and lots of junk that looks like junk.
We recently spent an evening with some German friends who are in the US for only one year. I mentioned to Dan how neat it was in their apartment and how much open space they have.
"Yeah, because they don't have ENOUGH stuff." Dan said. "They can't DO anything! They can't go sledding. They don't have shovels for the beach..."
And Dan's right. It may feel lovely and zen to have a basement without off-season merchandise, but is life really simpler if you have to start every expedition with buying something?
Of course all this is personal preference. Many bloggers who desire the same scope of personal belongings as college students often do so because they're moving just as frequently. Obviously if you're up and packing every year it's a pain to keep around anything that's non-essential. Dan and I view ourselves more as the parents of said college students. We're the ones who store all the useful stuff for the moment our kids (friends or acquaintances) come home and say, "Hey guys - can I borrow your step stool / car seat / portable microwave?" (all things I can remember loaning out in recent memory - all things that we had acquired for free too!).
So this is what peeves me, then. My Christian hippy bloggers, with the "hospitality" buzz word thrown in for good measure seem to be equating having less stuff with having more spiritual value. I call shenanigans. When we clean our house before company comes, it's not disposable luxuries we're moving from room to room. It's our coats and hats and snow boots that get neatly stacked to one side. And when we look around and worry that it's dirty, it's because our floor is LITERALLY COVERED WITH DIRT. That has nothing to do with our level of stuff, but everything to do with our level of activity and the fact that our family includes one toddler and one dog. Life makes dirt. The solution isn't buying more asian looking pottery.
And here's a final update which makes me feel doubly justified in my crap-keeping lifestyle. SortaCrunchy posts today an exhaustively long explanation of their recent decluttering efforts. Basically, they redid their kitchen, filled 21 trashbarrels with their old stuff, and replaced it all with new stuff. You know, for Jesus. Because (the horror) their measuring cups were different colors. Whatever, rich people. Unsubscribe.