With my new washer all hooked up, I have settled back into washing daily loads upon loads of dirty laundry again. While sorting socks and thanking my lucky stars for that sweet Kenmore yet again (sigh), I was reminded of my first year and a half with my oldest boy T. We lived in a small one bedroom apartment outside of Boston. The one bedroom was big and we were able to divide it off between us and the baby. However, the apartment itself was a lesson in humility to be sure. Our kitchen was tiny with a small frig, a small oven and no dishwasher. We also did not have a washer or dryer. And with a newborn producing mass quantities of every sort of bodily fluid, it was a struggle. But in the moment, I thought to myself: remember this. Why? Because we got by. We did it. We didn’t have a ton of space, a ton of stuff, we didn’t have every cool appliance or endless cool new baby gadgets. And we were fine.
So now we live in a house, but it’s certainly not the biggest house around. My boys share a room and their toys compete with our living space (the toys are winning by a long shot). Again, I think back to our Boston apartment days. We had a lot less, and we were fine.
Maybe its partly to save money or be more “green” or to save space, but I find myself coming back to the same realization: there is way way WAY too much excess expected in our lives.
Its impossible to avoid. We live in such a world of stuff. Catalogs, websites, malls, magazines, commercials, talk shows… they beckon and lure us in. Friends, moms, neighbors all around fall in love with stuff and try to convince us we need it too. Its cool, its fun, its efficient, its absolutely necessary to get by.
And what is it that we all seem to need?
How about household stuff: Two cars, and after 4 or 5 years, turn them in for new ones. Stainless steel appliances, even though those regular white ones still work fine. Two computers – a laptop and a regular sized PC with a nice flat screen monitor. Scanners, printers, cable boxes, wireless routers, DVD players, surround sound systems, and a million power strips to try and support it all. A grill, a big one with a big gas canister attached. Ipods, iphones and all the iattachments. Digital cameras, video cameras, phone cameras. Chargers for everything. Digital picture frames, security systems, a TV mounted on the porch, halogen track lighting. Blue tooth stuff. Flat screen TVs – for every room. Video gaming equipment and games upon games upon games. Cool chairs to sit in while you play those games. Garage door openers, garbage compactors, lawn mowers, edgers, whipper snippers, sprinkler systems to maintain unnaturally green grass.
What about babies? Well they need: bassinettes, cribs, excersaucers, bumbos, bouncers, swings, jumparoos, slings, backpacks, play mats, pack n plays, video and/or audio monitors, high chairs, 3 strollers minimally, car seats for each car, and every latest Baby Einstien developmental toy out there. You don’t have those? You’re a horrible mom. And then the diapers. Do I even need to explain the diapers? The excess which diapers represent? And how many of us know cloth diapered babies? I think I can count on one hand moms who use cloth diapers. And I am not one of them. Of course, kids do get potty trained (with potty seats and stickers and treats and endless loads of washing to clean up mistakes).
Then comes the kid stuff: train tables, all the $15 Thomas the train trains, princess gear, swing sets, board games with pieces spread all over the house, dress up clothes, books upon books upon books, heaps of forgotten stuffed animals (where do they all come from?), bikes of every size, wagons, slip n slides, pools, sandboxes, kiddie kitchen sets, plastic this, plastic that, bright, buzzing, falling apart. New clothes, always new. Old clothes hardly worn because they grew.
Our clothes: Piles of ancient fraying t-shirts, old jeans you swear you’ll fit into, shoulder padded dresses you’ve forgotten you used to like, jackets of every sort even though you live in Florida. Clothes with tags still on them because the sale was too good in the store, but they are sort’ve ugly out of the store. Clothes you bought trying to feel better, clothes you bought that made you feel worse. And shoes that seem to reproduce at the bottom of the closet, old ones falling stiff and flat and forgotten.
Food: Meat, every night, with packaging. Veggies bought, never eaten, rotting at the bottom of the crisper. Bags of potatoes bought in bulk that grow spuds faster than they’re eaten. Leftovers you swear you were going to eat, but seemed to have crawled off to the back of the frig. Seperate overly packaged containers of yogurt, applesauce, cookies, crackers, cheese, granola bars, easy mac, formula, juice. Bottles and bottles of water. Cans and cans of soda. (What DOES soda do exactly?)
And then cleaning it all up: Water left on while you rinse a plate. Handfuls of paper towels to clean up any water spilt while washing that plate. Antibacterial wipes – which we all love – pulled out and used for everything, then tossed. Cleaners of every variety, in big colorful containers. Water is still left on this time to brush teeth, to wash the kids hair in the tub, to water the plants, to play in, to wash the car… oh the water is still on? And some of us recycle, some stuff, some of the time.
Getting anywhere with your stuff: Cool mommy minivan started up and air conditioner on. Gotta get to that other mall across town for that sale. Gunning the accelerator to get through the yellow light. Waiting with the car on, music blaring, a/c blasting in the oh so long drive-thru line …GASGASGASGASGAS…
All of this is just stuff. And a lot of this stuff I have. Or want. We’ve all got it, we all compare it, we all enjoy it, we all toss it out without another thought. I guess what I am trying to do is simply THINK about it. What do I have? What do I really need? What can I live with or without? I want to be aware of why I buy yogurt in individual containers as opposed to the one big quart sized container. Or why I toss things into my cart in the dollar section of Target. Do we really need a new TV? Nope. Did we need that new washer? Yup. But I have made do without one before. So, excuse me as I go gather my garbage for our twice weekly and oh-so-easy curbside pick up tomorrow. I need to go and really think.