Last weekend, I went and spent the weekend with my mother. To be clear, my mother is a tiny bit of a hoarder. You’re not going to see her on a cable television show having a break down over things being removed from her home, but my mother’s (large) home is packed with “things” and “stuff” that serve no purpose. Since I love Postconsumers, I thought I would document my ongoing process of trying to encourage her to let go of “stuff” and realize that her things are not the same as her happiness and emotion.
To be fair, my mother comes by her “clinging” of things naturally. She’s the child of depression era parents, so she grew up in a household where you did not throw things out or waste them. And that would be great … if my mother were simply thrifty. But the “saving of stuff” goes well beyond that.
I’m not opposed to having “stuff.” Sometimes, things do mean something to you emotionally. A framed photo or souvenir from a trip, a gift from a loved one, even simply an old knick knack that has been in the house forever and reminds you of your children growing up. This is not my mother. Every drawer in the house is filled with items. Toys from when my brother and I were young that nobody has looked at in, literally, decades and that, in most cases, are broken. Clothing that we’ve forgotten about that fits nobody in the house and, again, in some cases is in disrepair.
At Christmas, my mother’s mantle in the dining room was entirely clear. My brother and I had purchased some framed art for her for Christmas and cleared the mantle so that the art wouldn’t be cluttered by kitsch. Last weekend, when we visited, the mantle was covered in knick knacks that seem to have grown organically while we were gone.
Here’s another story. I often do laundry while visiting my mother. The laundry is in the basement. While doing the laundry, among the clutter of things in the basement, I found an entire box of used toothbrushes. I asked my mother why she had this entire box of used toothbrushes. Her reply? “In case I need to clean something little with a toothbrush.” My reply, “For which you need one! One, mom! You do not need an entire box of used toothbrushes! And anyway, when was the last time that you cleaned something with a toothbrush?”
Obviously, my mother is in her sixties, and I’m not foolish enough to think that I can (or should) try to change her as a person or take away her happiness. But I believe, truly, that she’ll be happier if she lets go of her attachment to collecting and lightly hoarding “stuff”. I think that that statement is true of everybody. So I’m beginning the journey.
What was my first lesson? Never begin this process by saying something like, “Mom, if you just give me a week in this house with a box of trash bags, I will work magic.” Naturally, her response was to yell, “STAY AWAY FROM MY HOUSE, JOCELYN.”
I’m going to ease her in to the satisfaction of enough for today. And I’d welcome any advice!
Have advice on how to break my mom of her attachment to stuff or a story of your own on trying to break others of the stuff habit? Like us on Facebook and tell us about it.
Need more assistance in learning to let go of the consumer media’s impact on your life, take control of your finances and find the satisfaction of enough for today? The Get Satisfied Interactive Handbook is a 30-minute web course that walks you through a series of specific questions and then presents a personalized how-to plan for becoming a postconsumer. Launch your evaluation for free right now.
Image via Flickr Creative Commons: Heather Elias