Our culture of consumerism has given us one thing for sure—lots of stuff. We’re awash in it. Stuff crams our closets and overflows ours attics, basements, and garages, and when we run out of storage space at home we turn to one of the multiple storage facilities in town for added space. Sure, when we’ve maxed out of these storage options, we throw a lawn sale or take a load to Goodwill. But this just insures that our stuff will become the stuff of some other lucky people, most of whom also have storage issues.
Speaking of storage, l’ll bet the storage unit industry is right up there with the prison industry in terms of growth. I understand there is even a reality TV show called Storage Wars built around people buying stuff in repossessed storage lockers sight unseen in the hopes of finding a discarded Picasso or a complete collection of rare baseball cards hiding in the plastic furniture and discarded clothes awaiting a style comeback. I’ve never had the pleasure, but it sounds like exciting viewing.
Of course, stuff is not worthless. People are making big bucks off stuff, even used stuff. Have you noticed the spiffy new, all-brick Goodwill buildings that are springing up all over the country? The CEO of that non-profit makes over $850,000. At Goodwill the term non-profit obviously applies to the business, not the management. And it’s no accident that we call the stores we buy most of our stuff in Big Boxes. It may be difficult to find help in these mega-stores, but where else can you find a plastic garden hose sprayer that won’t last the summer or a bag full of machine screws when you only need one?
Okay, I’m being a little unfair here. Obviously, not all stuff is useless junk. There is my espresso coffee maker, my post-hole digger, and my bamboo fly rod. These are examples of good stuff, stuff I really need. When they wear out, I’ll promptly replace them. Ah, you say, you have stuff stored somewhere that might prove useful some day. This is a slippery slope that leads to stuff overflow. I say be ruthless. If you haven’t used stuff for a year, get rid of it. We could probably power a good sized city by burning the stuff culled in this manner.
What about all my digital electronic stuff you might ask? True, this stuff—like the computer I’m tapping on right now—is useful but, alas, it is destined to be obsolete junk in a very short amount of time. I’m sure most everyone reading this has a drawer or cupboard jammed with all manner of old computers, cell phones, cameras, charging cords, and the like. For me, digital electronics fall into the same category as automobiles. They are necessary evils. Useful, but likely to become obsolete before they wear out.
Here’s a telling question: when is the last time you wore anything out?
Personally, I like stuff that gets better with age. I’m thinking of the antique chest in our study, whose wood has taken on a subtle patina with age, and the hammer used by father with its wooden handle polished with use, and the soft, supple feel of my old leather briefcase. Wine falls in this category but, technically, it’s not stuff.
I guess when it comes to stuff, I’m with Guy Clark, who had this to say in his song Stuff That Works:
Stuff that works, stuff that holds up
The kind of stuff you don’t hang on the wall
Stuff that’s real, stuff you feel
The kind of stuff you reach for when you fall