A monster lives inside me. She froths at the mouth when she sees something shiny. She gets all giddy at a sale and she can come up with any excuse to buy an unnecessary bauble. She comes out most often in second-hand stores and at garage sales. She’s my inner-packrat.
I inherited her. My parents grew up in the Netherlands during World War 2. They learned the hard way that everything has a use and they brought these lessons with them to Canada.
Our house was all about composting, reusing and stockpiling. Very little was thrown out. We washed out milk bags and used them to pack our sandwiches. When my winter boots sprung a leak, grocery bags became the liners. We mended our socks. Much of what came in my house stayed there for a very long time.
Don’t get me wrong, my parents weren’t hoarders. But they definitely weren’t minimalists. They taught me to collect from an early age. Our car had a bumper sticker that read “This car stops at all garage sales”…and it was true. My mom would give me a dollar or two to buy whatever I wanted. And that’s how the monster started.
After leaving the house for university, I moved a lot. This was a natural incentive to reduce my stuff. I no longer looked at things from a sentimental perspective or wondering if it would be worth something one day. Instead, I kept it, chucked it or donated it depending on whether or not I thought it was worth physically putting in a box and moving it.
I felt lighter, more nomadic and less focused on the material. But, if I’m not careful, the monster will slowly take over. Case in point, my New Year’s resolution for 2011 was to buy nothing new. For the most part, I was able to stick to it. But I have to admit that I actually ended up buying more than I normally would.
I have a six year old who is growing fast. So we had to go to Value Village a lot for coats, clothes, shoes, etc. Of course, I’d check out the kitchen supplies, where I landed some cool vintage finds. Fueled by the deal and the vision of collecting again, the monster grew and she took over again. We started going to Value Village once or twice a week. I don’t think I walked out of there once without buying something.
After a year, I found my house had stuff I’d never use. Stuff I didn’t have room for. Stuff that weighed me down physically, mentally and spiritually. When I have too much stuff, my life becomes about maintaining it, cleaning it and getting more of it. This is not what I want to focus on. Stuff doesn’t build community or character.
So I recently started a big purge and wrestled that monster back to her corner. I plan to keep her there…at least until I pass a garage sale this summer.
Toronto-based writer, editor Kristy Woudstra is driven by the search for enlightenment but hopes to never ‘arrive.’ She has learned to embrace her imperfect, geeky self and has the weird inclination to blog about it.
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