COLUMN — Free yourself from things

Published 7:21 pm Friday, September 11, 2020

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I recently stumbled upon an illustration online that likely originally came from The New Yorker. In the drawing, an elderly man was standing in front of a garage with his adult son. The garage was bursting at the seams with a variety of junk, from boxes, old tires and a refrigerator to a decaying mattress and rusty tools. The caption under the illustration read, “One day, Son, all of this will be yours.”

Your parents and grandparents likely grew up with very little, and it wasn’t so long ago that for many Americans happiness seemed to be measured in things. The more things you had, the happier you were supposed to be, and the antidote for sadness, emptiness and loneliness was purported to be more things.

It is easy to judge others for hanging on to items we might see as junk, but for those who grew up without much there is a lasting need to accumulate stockpiles and to save items that may one day be used again, even if those items are broken, outdated or old. And the need to hold on to “stuff” can be passed down from generation to generation.

But “stuff” can suffocate you. Junk can weigh you down, and it may be high time you reevaluate the items you allow to be a part of your life.

Today, more and more young adults are embarking on a path of minimalistic living. While there are some who take it to an extreme, I believe a healthy middle could be the key to a healthy lifestyle.

Do you come home each night to a house that feels visually “noisy” or makes you claustrophobic? Do you have kitchen cabinets crammed with mismatched crockery, a bathroom sink with decades-old cleaning products underneath it or a closet overflowing with items that you wear once a year, if that? And let’s not even talk about the garage or the basement.

Other times, “junk” disguises itself in your home as things that overcrowd the room but don’t look like throwaway items. Maybe you have so many decorative pillows that no one can sit on your couch properly. There’s so many decorations on the coffee table that you can’t set a cup of coffee on it. And would somebody please tell me why I keep buying new bottles of shampoo when I haven’t finished the old ones?

Picture your perfect home. Does your perfect home have a desk stuffed with papers you “might need again one day,” a dresser of clothes you “might fit into again one day” or boxes and boxes of books you “might read again one day”?

Maybe your perfect home is a mansion where all of these items can fit. For me, the perfect home is not overwhelmed with stuff. I want to have a small wardrobe with quality clothes I wear often. I want the memorabilia I care about out on display, not collecting dust in bins in the attic where I forget those memories exist.

Experiences make me happy. I love going places, trying new things, and the best thing about experiences is they don’t collect dust or take up a lot of shelf space.

Look around you. You may find you are hanging on to things that are only weighing you down. Make space for the objects that bring you happiness. If having 20 pillows on the couch makes you happy, then you do you. But please, consider letting go of some of the items that are just there to fill a space.

You will be surprised at how much it frees you.

Alexa Massey is a staff reporter for The Kenbridge-Victoria Dispatch and Farmville Newsmedia LLC. Her email address is