I glanced at the Facebook meme about clutter and momentarily confused the words “use less” instead of the word “useless”. I grinned and realized that, in a way, the phrase is related to the adjective more than we might believe.
When sorting through belongings during household downsizing, we decide which things we use more often and which things we use less often. Then we continue the sorting process among the stuff we use less, and cull the items we never use. The culled items are useless to us, even though they might be useful to other households.
The last time I downsized kitchen gadgets, the espresso maker came under intense scrutiny. Although I love to drink espresso from time to time, I rarely use the espresso maker because it takes a long time to wash its parts. In terms of quickly preparing the rich coffee drink, it’s OK. In terms of overall time spent with gadgetry and fussing about, it’s time consuming. When I really want a fast cup of rich coffee, I usually prepare it in a French press. The process takes less time, plus the gadget cleans up very quickly and easily.
The verdict: the espresso maker went to the donations box. The counter-top became less cluttered. While the espresso maker was virtually useless in my household, it may be very useful to somebody else.
“Many possessions, if they do not make a man better, are at least expected to make his children happier; and this pathetic hope is behind many exertions.”–George Santayana
When it comes to stuff that was saved just in case someone needed it, dad was prolific. He wasn’t a classic hoarder, but he did have a lot of things, neatly categorized and stored in his basement and in outbuildings on his acreage. There was one instance that I know of, when he crossed the threshold of hoarding. My sister had removed and discarded some time-worn, ugly draperies from the living room windows. Her house was located next to dad’s place. The next day, while Deb was not at home, dad retrieved the faded, sunlight-weakened draperies from the trash bin. He finally consented to discarding the dirty draperies during a household downsizing session after he moved into the nursing home.
After dad died, the sorting through of his belongings required several months worth of effort. I discovered many arcane tools and machines that were useless to the average person, but had been very useful to earlier generations. The most blatant example was a rusty, broken-down, horse-drawn hay rake. The implement probably raked cut alfalfa hundreds of times before it was eventually replaced by a motorized, modern equivalent. The old hay rake is useless to any contemporary farmer. It was sold to a buyer who in turn, sold it as scrap. However, he kept the broken wheels to display near his rural mailbox.
“Why grab possessions like thieves, or divide them like socialists when you can ignore them like wise men?”–novelist, playwright, and poet, Natalie Clifford Barney
Modern, consumer culture entices us to buy a lot of stuff. In fact, consumerism is a lifestyle choice. We get buried under the stuff we buy. We store a lot of it away for a “rainy day” or for some time we might need it. The truth is, we cannot find it on that rainy day or when it’s needed for that one-time project. We end up buying another one so we don’t have to waste time trying to find the original saved thing. Years later, we find the original thing and the replacement thing, then save them both for “just in case”.
Life consists of us accumulating things. Some of them are useful but become obsolete and useless with the passing of time. Every so often, it’s a relief to go through the downsizing process. Life becomes more carefree when we want to use less stuff.
The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes the founder of the J.C. Penney department store chain, James Cash Penney. “Men are not great or small because of their material possessions. They are great or small because of what they are.”