The girls and I have been taking walks after dinner this summer through our quiet, suburban neighborhood. It’s interesting to watch the new houses go up in the few remaining empty lots. On bonus nights, the 2-year-old boy next door is buck naked in his front yard, mortifying Claire. It’s interesting looking into people’s open garage doors to see who can use their garage for its intended purpose, versus whose garage is so full of stuff that their cars are permanently in the driveway outside. I was particularly interested in the priorities behind the 3-car garage that housed an ATV in addition to two cars, while the brand new Ford 150 pickup sat in the driveway outside. But I’m completely baffled by the two garages which house only cars and nothing else. Not a rake or a bike or a cooler. Who lives in a house with no rake and only pristine white walls in their garage? But that’s a story for another day.
Close to half of the garages in our completely unscientific survey hold way too much stuff to house any cars. I always wonder whether the inside of those homes look like the inside of their garage, or whether their home is uncluttered because all of their stuff is in their garage. My favorite garage item is exercise equipment. I assume the story is predictably the same for each treadmill and weight bench sitting there. There is a wide variety of garage stuff: dressers and bookshelves, kayaks and Barbie cars, bikes and car top carriers. It’s a small, voyeuristic glimpse into the private lives of others.
I think my interest in other people’s clutter is more like a phobia, sort of an “it could be me” fear. Years ago, I helped three family members downsize, one of them twice, in a five-year period. If I ever had the tendency to accumulate things, that cured it. Dealing with such tangible reminders that you can’t take it with you, and that the stuff you store becomes only stuff that somebody (maybe you) has to deal with someday, left me almost obsessive about keeping only what I need. I’ve found living uncluttered liberating…overloaded closets and garages and basements added to the stress in my life. I’ve regretted next to nothing I’ve ever gotten rid of. It’s a good reminder to focus on the things I have that really matter in life–family, friends, health. In the end, that’s all we really have anyway.
“The more you have, the more you are occupied. The less you have, the more free you are.” –Mother Teresa