Need or Want?

This past weekend it rained. Not a big deal to most people, but big news here in Southern California where we’ve been living through a drought for over 4 years. I like rainy days…I don’t feel guilty about staying inside all day. With nothing on TV and no desire to binge-watch, I walked into my bedroom and, starting with the closet, began pulling out clothing I hadn’t worn in a long time.

Professional organizers say you should toss out clothing that hasn’t been worn in at least a year. I had just gone through my clothing 8 months ago so I didn’t expect to find much to discard. Was I wrong! I ended up filling two green bags with shirts, jeans, dresses, and a few scarves (I have a bit of a scarf problem which I’m trying to manage).

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Scarf Problem

How did I accumulate so much stuff? I’m not pointing the finger at anyone but myself, however as I looked around my condo I saw things that I really didn’t need. It’s funny when you get a pet how many people give you pet related gifts. I love my two cats, but I’m not a Cat Lady…cat statues, cat salt & pepper shakers, cat books and bookends among many other cat items have been given to me over the last few years. I try, really I do, to pretend how much I love the item, but honestly, I don’t need or want any more cat stuff! 

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Do I really need Lucky Cat?

Last week while visiting my mom, I went into the attic to help purge and organize 53 years of old stuff. Ancient luggage, deteriorating boxes and decorations for EVERY holiday were piled high across the attic. Did I mention that it was 85 degrees outside with 90% humidity? Or that the attic fan was broken? And that I couldn’t stand upright? I was basically working in a dwarf sauna, but this excavation work brought out the archaeologist in me. That’s what I wanted to be when I grew up. I saw Indiana Jones twenty-three times in the movie theatre and an undetermined amount on TV. The attic is a time capsule into our family’s history and I wanted to sift through the dirt.

And there was some actual dirt. Several months ago there had been a furnace “blow back” which had blasted charred black pieces of God knows what everywhere, even into the garage. Did I mention that I could talk to my sister from the attic while she stood in the garage? There’s some flooring that’s been missing for a long time so I could toss her things that were either going to the garage sale or into the garbage — I just noticed that garage and garbage are only one letter apart…interesting.

The three items worth noting that day after all of the sifting, sorting and tossing were our airline tickets from NY to Bermuda in 1977, my sister Caroline’s high school year book and the dog bank. I guess the tickets were sentimental to my dad. All of our family trips until then involved driving, mostly along I-95 south to Florida or north up to Canada. Bermuda was our first plane ride together. I remember we rented 3 mopeds, mom and dad on one, Phil and Caroline on another and Dave and I on the last. Knowing how uptight parents are today, I doubt we would have done that now. We saw Bermuda’s famous pink sand beaches, crystal caves and old forts. I was 9 years old, as written on the ticket alongside the price of $75, which was probably a lot back then. I was amazed at how new the tickets looked given the attic elements of extreme heat, cold and occasional “blow back.” 

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         Now that I have a photo of it, can’t it be tossed?

As sweat dripped along the sides of my face I yelled down to my sister that I had found her yearbook. Caroline was so excited you’d have thought I had found The Arc of the Covenant. She thought the book had been lost in one of her moves. Flipping through the pages seeing the 70s styles, or lack thereof, it was hard to imagine that the book was over 35 years old. How quickly time has flown. I’m glad she got that book back. It’s one of the few things that’s nice to keep for life.

Then when I unearthed the Saint Bernard dog bank, I knew I had struck gold! I remember this in my brothers room. I couldn’t remember if it was Phil’s or Dave’s but I knew it was their piggy bank. I texted Dave asking “remember this piggy bank?” and he wrote back, “isn’t that mine?” Yeah it’s yours, don’t worry, I seriously don’t want it. We’re saving it for you. 

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The Doggy Bank

What does all of this stuff come down to? We eventually have to throw it all away or pass some other things on to the next generation. I am sentimental, but I find it’s the little things that offer the most value — not monetarily, but in the memories.

I know a woman who doesn’t speak to her sister over a photograph one has and the other wanted after their father died. First of all, don’t they know what a scanner is? I digress, but the fact that they don’t speak over a “thing”…well, I’m sure there’s more to that since they’re from a very dysfunctional family, but the bottom line is, are you really going to cut someone off over a photograph? Isn’t it the memories of your dad that matter most?

Other friends I know have a beautiful home, except for all of the stuff they’ve accumulated. How many shampoos, conditioners, lotions, potions, treatments and creams do you need until you realize you no longer have counter space in your bathrooms? Why not finish one before buying a new one? Their dining room is used for miscellaneous storage (I guess it is cheaper than renting a unit somewhere) and the refrigerator and cabinets seem to burst from excess stuff. They only have 2 people living at home!

Are they happy? It’s hard to know, but I believe I’m trying to move towards the Buddhist way of thinking — the more we are consumed by material desires, the less enlightened we are. Now I’m not going to shave my head or wear an orange robe, but I do think they are onto something. George Carlin’s comedy bit on Stuff sums everything up very well: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4x_QkGPCL18

I find that I really don’t need a lot of things anymore. They just take up more and more space and eventually I will have to get rid of the stuff. When I was younger and working my way up in the world, if I wanted something I bought it. Now, I ask myself, do you WANT this or do you NEED this? It makes a huge difference when you ask yourself whether an item is a want or a need. Toilet paper for example is a need, whereas that stupid fuzzy cat snow globe is a needless, spur of the moment, I may have been drunk, WANT (or maybe someone gave it to me…).

Start asking yourself the WANT vs. NEED question now because someday you may find yourself in a dwarf sauna trying to figure out how you accumulated so much stuff!

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One thought on “Need or Want?

  1. Fantastic — as usual. Love the message, sentiment, and specificity. Happy Caroline got her yearbook back. Picturing you in the “dwarf sauna”: priceless. I have one favor: could I have the fuzzy cat snow globe? Only because I need it. xo 😉

    Liked by 1 person

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