Saturday, December 23, 2006

Clutter and Care

As you might have guessed from my description of our station wagon's contents as we traveled down from Ohio to our Georgia families, I have a bit of an issue with clutter.

I admit that I am not perfect, though in my mind, I should be living in a glass and steel Miles van der Rohe house deep in the woods, surrounded by industrial, modern sparseness.

So, while drinking hot tea, standing at Nana's dining room table, the title of a magazine article in AARP: The Magazine caught my eye--"Conquer Clutter: How to Dig Out Once and for All."

(You should read the entire article here, especially at this time of year, when we are guaranteed to acquire more clutter and more gifts that will surely end up in a garage, basement, or closet soon.)

One of the more eloquent passages is reproduced below:

"In Dante's Inferno, there is a circle of Hell reserved for two warring armies, the Hoarders and the Wasters, who spend eternity rolling enormous boulders at each other on a desolate sun-baked plain. The boulders are actually diamonds and represent the possessions they had such unhealthy relationships with during their lives. 'Why do you hoard?' the Wasters shout. 'Why do you waste?' the Hoarders scream back. This represents, endlessly, joint punishment for their respective sins.

The contemporary earthly equivalent of this infernal battlefield is the self-storage facility, the charmless metal sheds that sprout alongside interstates and in industrial parks across the country. All but unknown before 1970, such facilities now number 45,000 nationwide, representing slightly less than 2 billion square feet of rentable space filled with the excess material burden of Americans whose caches have outgrown their houses and garages. (This despite the fact that a quarter of homeowners with two-car garages use them exclusively for storage and park in the driveway.) The rise of the self-storage industry in the past decades has been accompanied, counterintuitively, by the supersizing of the American home, which has swelled about 60 percent since 1970, from an average of 1,500 square feet to about 2,400 square feet today. So voracious is our appetite for acquiring stuff--and so great our attachment to it once acquired--that we are willing to rent space to hold it, miles away from these homes, even though the investment in monthly upkeep is typically greater than the worth of the contents themselves."

Have a Merry Christmas, yes, but consider this (as I am going to do this year). For every new shirt, book, toy, or other item that you acquire from family and friends, take an older one and donate it to a charity, church, or volunteer organization of your choice. We are all lucky enough to be blessed with many things. Let's take advantage of our largesse and try to help others also.

1 comment:

flipper said...

What a wonderful sentiment. I totally agree.

I'm a little concerned that you're reading AARP magazine, though.