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Stuff to Maintain You

Headline: Upon recent reflection I realized that I’ve switched so that most of my “stuff” is to support me rather than me supporting my “stuff”.

What Stuff?

Years ago I first heard George Carlin do his routine on “Stuff”. If you search for “George Carlin Stuff” you will find many videos. I found it funny. Then many years later I saw the site about “Story of Stuff” at storyofstuff.org. This 21 minute video talks about our shift to a consumption society and the damage to the earth and society.

In both of these, stuff is… well… stuff. Things you own – houses, cars, televisions, stereo equipment, motorcycles, bicycles, toys, dishes, decorations, furniture, the list goes on.

Stuff I Maintain

So what am I talking about when I say, “Stuff I Maintain”? Here’s a partial list:

  • Paint the house
  • Replace light bulbs
  • Resurface the wood floor
  • Mow the lawn
  • Weed eat and trim the lawn
  • Blow the sidewalk
  • Wash the car (or take it to be washed)
  • Detail my motorcycle
  • Fix broken toys
  • Upgrade my computer
  • Find out why the cable isn’t working
  • Fix the dishwasher
  • Replace the cooktop
  • Replace the refrigerator
  • Fix the sprinkler system
  • Power wash the sidewalk (to remove mold)
  • Fix broken  yard lights
  • Get rid of the ants
  • Spray for roaches
  • Then there are some pretty unavoidable items: laundry, vacuuming, mopping (iRobot helps some with these two)

So where did I get that list? I just went back to a one year period in my previous home and thought through all the things could remember that needed maintaining.

The Watershed Events

A friend of mine last his mother many years ago and then recently lost his father. He spent many, many weekends flying to his home to help get rid of his dad’s “Stuff”

I then recently visited my parent’s home and we had guests coming over. We needed to “hide” some stuff, but everything we opened was full. There was no place to hide it. We finally just set it in a sink in the back room until we could return it to its rightful countertop upon our guests departure. My mother was a master at garage sales and the criteria wasn’t, “Do I need this.” It was, “Is this a bargain? Is this a LOT cheaper than I can buy it in the store? And might I need it ‘someday’?”

I looked around my own home and it was pretty much the same way. I couldn’t fit much more in my garage, or our cabinets, our my office. In some rooms it was actually hard to walk around due to all the furniture.

The Change in the Move

When I moved to Denver in 2011 I decided I wanted to live differently. A previous move allowed us to downsize, but we did much more downsizing when we moved from Houston to Denver. I think I took at least 50 boxes of goods to Good Will. And I don’t mean, junk! I never donated a single item I wouldn’t be proud to give on of my children as a gift. Several monitors in mint condition. A very clean (but redundant) set of pots and pans. These are examples.

Stuff That Maintains Me

As I look back over the past several years I realized that I’ve made a shift to “Stuff that maintains me”!

So what do I mean by that? Here are some examples of things that I spend little time maintaining but that help maintain me:

  • My commuter bicycle
  • My in-home gym (that gets used regularly)
  • My wife bought me a stationary bike for the winters and bad weather
  • A juicer (this does take time)
  • My road bike

All these help maintain my health in some way. Stuff that maintains me! Interesting! Preventive maintenance, but maintenance none the less.

In addition I tried to reduce the time spent maintaining other things. I know these are practical for many, but it points out how seriously I took some of this.

  • I’m in a condo – no lawn maintenance or snow shoveling
  • I sold my car… one less car to wash and maintain
  • I have WAY fewer computers so I spend less time on computer maintenance. I have quite a bit of my previous work in the cloud now (example, personal source code)

Summary

So when I looked back on changes over the past several years it struck me that I have shifted from “Stuff I Maintain” to “Stuff that Maintains Me”. With that “ah ha”, I continue striving to do that.

Note: I hesitated writing this post. It sounds so arrogant. It’s not intended that way. Personal events forced me to change my lifestyle. I did it sooner than many I know. But I think this points to a more desirable set of values for taking care of ourselves and our planet. I thought I would try to help promote that. And if nothing else, point more people to “The Story of Stuff”.

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