To quote the Red Hot Chili Peppers' classic alternative rock song from 1991, "Give it away now!"
I'm pretty sure Anthony Kiedis, the band's frontman, wasn't talking about "stuff" when he penned that lyric, but in this context, I am. As a self-proclaimed minimalist living with some not-so-minimalists, I am preparing for my semi-annual complete clean out of my house.
I am bolstered by the knowledge that not only will my house feel lighter when I'm done, but so will my spirit. In my opinion, we hold on to stuff like we hold on to bad habits. We know it's time to move on, but we're too complacent to make a change. Once we make that change, we open ourselves up not only to the new possibilities of our clutter-free environment, but to an environment that gives us the space to breathe and grow as human beings.
My children have actually gotten very good at cleaning out - one by nature (my mini-me), and one by nurture. It's not unusual for me to come home from work on a summer evening to find a cadre of Goodwill bags lined up like soldiers in formation in the hallway outside their rooms. Sometimes, I go through them to make sure they're not throwing away anything important. Other times, overcome with fatigue from my day, I just trust they know what they need and don't need. The nature of having a smaller house with little storage space is that you are forced to make these decisions.
One of my oldest and dearest friends lives with her husband and daughter in an apartment in Los Angeles. They are both European and travel extensively.
"Where is all your stuff?" I asked her one time on the phone. "In storage?"
"What stuff? We don't have any stuff besides what's in our apartment," she replied incredulously.
I gasped with envy at this revelation. How nice must it be to go through life not attached to stuff.
I think some people are paralyzed by stuff. I don't mean hoarding, which is an actual illness, I mean run-of-the mill clutter that we mysteriously accumulate over the years, especially when we have children. It's hard to know where to begin. A good place to start, a friend of mine recently told me, is with joy, that's right, joy. If it doesn't bring you joy, chuck it. Be ruthless. It feels so good.
Hopefully, I am leading the charge with my girls to value people and experiences over stuff each and every time. I'm pretty sure they're on their way to this Zen platitude. It's definitely too late for my husband. I've already told him if he dies before me, I am going to call the Vietnam Vets, fling open the garage and say: "Have at it!"
Amanda is the mom of two, a reporter for WRAL-TV and the author of several books including some about motherhood. Find her here on Mondays.