Friday, October 5, 2012

When our things own us

The photo below might shock you.  Or it might not.
 This is the view of my sewing room/bill paying room/work area from one corner.  What a mess!  The view from the doorway isn't any better, really.

When we get busy, our homes get messy.  Maybe I shouldn't speak for you; perhaps your home stays spotless.  So I'll just say, the messiness of my own sewing room is like a barometer of my busy-ness; the greater the atmospheric pressure around me, the higher the piles get.  And that seems like such an obvious statement, but why should it be obvious?  Why does it take such an amount of energy and time on our part to tame the things we own?  Why is it a struggle for us to keep our so-called possessions in their places?

Is it, perhaps, because our possessions actually own us?

This is an idea I think about so often that my non-miser husband says it has infected him.  He tells me he worked hard this summer to get rid of piles and piles of books he's unlikely to read, only to head into his office in the basement to find his shelves still eerily full of books -- as though a Sorcerer's Apprentice had accidentally cast a spell that had magic brooms bringing books, not pails of water, into our home.

We live in a strange world of excess.  A world where we pay people to get rid of our trash, and even where we pay people to haul away our not-quite-junk.  A world where adult children whose parents pass away have to worry about how to clean out the family home of all that stuff.  A world where thrift shops get too many donations of goods.  A world where we spend time and money taking care of our things (yes, I'm thinking of staying home while the dishwasher repair guy came).

For me, the hydra's heads (to switch metaphors) seems to be kitchen appliances.  My kitchen gadgets fill up all sorts of interesting nooks and crannies in places both in and out of the kitchen.  Two examples: The cuisinart and the blender live on a high shelf in the kitchen, above the coffee and baking supplies . . .

. . . but the waffle irons and one of my two crock pots hang out (for some reason lost to historical accident) in a dining room cabinet . . .
. . . and there are more shelves down in the basement (near the sorcerer's apprentice, apparently), shelves full of canning equipment and my dehydrator.

So . . . should I get that apple peeler-corer I fell in love with last weekend?  The standard consumer response is to note that I like using it, and it costs less than $30, so why not?  But I look at my cupboards, and all the things that keep coming out of my cupboards to take over my home space, and I also want to ask myself:

  • do I want to create space for this machine in my home?
  • do I want to take care of this machine, and store it, and clean it?
  • will having this in my kitchen or on my shelves make cleaning the rest of my home harder?

Really, I want to know to what extent I'm going to own this machine, and to what extent it's going to own me.

More on this topic tomorrow.

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