Too many possessions that we don’t need

By Melvin Durai

My wife and I recently moved from one house to another. The two houses are three miles apart within the same college town, but it was nevertheless a stressful move. That’s because we’ve accumulated too many possessions in our 17 years of marriage. Only three of our possessions are priceless, and moving them was fairly easy. All we had to do was say, “Kids, the ice cream has moved to the new house!”

Unfortunately, these three valuable possessions have possessions of their own, and it was up to us to make sure they were moved. We are a family of five, which means that we had to move five times as much junk as a single person would. Not all of our stuff is junk, of course, but as I moved our clothes, books, furniture and an assortment of other items, I realized that I’d be quite happy to live with only one-fifth of it. Yes, I could easily manage without all the belongings of other family members.

Actually, most of my belongings are as unnecessary as my wife’s or children’s stuff. We could get rid of them and still be quite content ”“ at least until we visit a friend’s home and see all their stuff. And then we’ll be eager to get more stuff. Isn’t that what life is all about ”“ accumulating stuff? The more stuff you own, the happier you will be.

“When you die, you can’t take it with you,” someone will inevitably say. That’s true, but you can at least leave it for your kids, so they can have the pleasure of organizing an estate sale.

Until then, you’ll just have to haul all your belongings from one house to another, while wondering why you need all this stuff. You realize that your belongings fall into six main categories:

  1. Clothes. Some of your clothes you wear regularly, some you wear only on special occasions, and some you never wear. The latter includes clothes that don’t fit you anymore, but you’ve been saving for years, just in case a miracle happens and you wake up one day 20 pounds slimmer.
  2. Shoes, sandals and slippers. You need shoes to match every outfit, of course, and shoes for every type of weather: sunny shoes, rainy shoes, snow shoes, hurricane shoes. Some of your footwear, you never wear. But you don’t feel guilty about this, because they still serve an important purpose, whenever the kids misbehave.
  3. Furniture. All you need to get through life are two pieces of furniture: a chair and a TV stand. Everything else is superfluous. Sofas are nice to have, but they are a pain to move. That’s partly because sofa manufacturers are a sneaky bunch. They create sofas that expand gradually with age, making them easy to move into a home, but almost impossible to move out. Sofa manufacturers are hoping you’ll just leave your sofa in the old home and buy a new one. I outsmarted them though. I cut my sofa in half, moved it out, and glued it back together in the new home.
  4. Kitchen utensils. All you need to cook is a pot, but you own a dozen pots of different sizes. You also own a variety of pans, including one cast-iron pan that’s so heavy, the only time you’ve lifted it higher than your head was the unfortunate night in 2015 when you mistook your spouse for a burglar.
  5. Memorabilia. You have several boxes of memorabilia, which includes not just photos of your children, but also all their certificates, medals, trophies and concert programs. You’ve saved all their artwork, even the “napkin art” that your daughter made with ketchup and mustard at McDonald’s.
  6. Books. You own hundreds of books, some of which are extremely heavy. You moved your piano easily, but needed extra help to move Leo Tolstoy’s “War and Peace” and Vikram Seth’s “A Suitable Boy.” On the bright side, you can get rid of all your furniture, sit on “War and Peace” and set your TV on “A Suitable Boy.”

As my wife always says, books can bring you more happiness than furniture.

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