Know Your Stuff — The Game
My relationship with Stuff has been evolving over the last couple of years. While I have spent many of my adult years fairly broke (yet never poor), my family still has managed to amass quite a huge quantity of Stuff. Its a little strange and confusing. What’s even more strange amd confusing is the fact that, no matter how much stuff we collect, we always seem to want more. We really don’t buy that much overall, but I do find myself spending an awful lot of mental energy, and occasionally time, obsessing over something I’d like to buy. I’m pleased when I have a package on the way, or I have just scored some great deal at Goodwill, or I have a new crafting book to page through. I’ve been known to take my “mommy breaks” at Target, blissfully grabbing this or that thing that my family “needs”. There’s something incredibly satisfying about it.
I don’t think I’m a shopaholic. And I really don’t spend that much money on crap I don’t need (we have barely used our credit card in the last three or four years). But I like cool things. I like things that are quirky, or unique, things that not everyone has. My husband and I were pratically beside ourselves with delight when we walked into a used toy and game store in Vancouver and found 1) The He-Man role playing game, 2) Greg Costikyan’s Red-Dawnesque RPG The Price of Freedom and 3) The socialist consciousness-raising board game Power Struggle. We probably shouldn’t have bought all three, but at the time the thought of having these treasures on our game bookshelf when friends came to visit overwhelmed us.
It makes me uncomfortable, that I like stuff so much. There have been times when I have stood rooted to the spot in some store holding some bauble in my hands for 5 minutes or more, warring with myself about whether or not to buy it. Eventually I put it back on the shelf, feeling momentarily proud and self-righteous but with a lingering remorse and sense of unfulfilment that sticks around for the following week (or more). Or else I decide “I deserve this!” or some other justification, and bring it to the front pleased with myself for my bold decision of self-care but shot through with a guilt that might never fade.
Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. Damn, damn, damn…
We have whole industries devoted to helping us keep our stuff; the Container Store (which I love) and the prevalence of rental storage units speak to this, not to mention the huge number of books available designed to help guide you to cleaning out clutter and organizing your stuff.
If you ever watch shows like Clean Sweep or Clean House (both of which I love), you can see similar emotional wars in the home owners who are being asked to part with their beloved stuff. What makes these shows compelling isn’t really the process of clearing clutter (although I do find it interesting what people have in their homes) but the emotional attachment people have to various items and how different people in a family deal with these emotions. Often, when the family members are asked “What happened to get your house like this?” the answers will have something to do with a loss. A loss of a family member, a loss of a job, a loss of an expected lifestyle (a baby is never born, a child loses their job and moves back in). Filling up a house with crap never fills up the holes in someone, but it seems worth a try. Why? Why would we even have this expectation? Why would we turn to stuff for comfort instead of ….? Another person, a hot bath, a walk in the park…?
We have a stuff problem. But of course its about more than just stuff. The stuff itself doesn’t mean anything; its the meaning we imbue it with that actually impacts our lives on a day to day basis. However, the stuff doesn’t just start having meaning when we buy it. It comes from somewhere. Someone made it. Its made out of something. It is made in a place, perhaps halfway around the world.
I decided to start an experiment. Which, of course, takes the form of a game. Its a game I made for myself, but if you would like to play along I invite you to do so. Its called Know Your Stuff and you can find the rules here. Its a game about understanding the stories behind our stuff; before the stuff gets to our homes. My expectation for this experiement/game is that by knowing more about the stuff I’m thinking of buying, I’ll probably buy less and I’ll only invite things into my home that I feel good about. I’ll keep you posted. In the meantime, if you’d like to participate, let me know your results and we can compare notes and trade links and start a whole Know Your Stuff game club! That would be fun. Maybe even more fun than a mommy date at Target.
This entry was posted on Monday, December 3rd, 2012 at 10:35 am and is filed under Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.