Too much stuff

22 Feb

“I’m returning these” I say, heaving a wobbly stack of children’s books onto the library reception desk, “I know we’ve left a couple at home, which I’d like to renew please.”  The librarian starts scanning barcodes then turns to me disapprovingly “You owe us £4.20 and you have a lot of books at home, 20 actually.”  I’m sure there’s been some mistake, we can’t have lost twenty library books on our shelves, I know we have a lot of books, but that’s just ridiculous.

I head home determined to prove the grumpy librarian wrong. We can’t possibly have twenty library books hidden at home can we?  Turns out we can, and we do.  Sheepishly, I pull library book after library book off shelves, groaning with our own titles.

It’s beginning to dawn on me that we have too many books, and not only books.  Looking around our house, I realise that we have too much of everything, too many toys, too many clothes, too much furniture. All this, despite my twice yearly argh-can’t-stand-it-any-more clear out and charity shop run. And we are not the kind of couple you’ll find dragging tired, whiny kids around a soul sapping shopping centre on a Saturday afternoon. Shopping as recreation doesn’t really feature in our lives, unless you count a sneaky solo trip to Waitrose while the other half is putting the children to bed.

How liberating will it be to possess only what we can carry for nine months? My guess is very.  No decisions about what to wear, beyond sniffing to establish cleanliness.  A break from the endless sorting of cars, lego, playmobil, dinosaurs and power rangers into their respective buckets.  No rifling through the bathroom cupboard searching for a new tube of toothpaste but finding only six toothbrushes.  And no more losing library books.  I’m still looking for the last two.  Has anyone seen them?

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20 Responses to “Too much stuff”

  1. Mara 22/02/2010 at 3:14 pm #

    When I traveled for 13 months with my 1 year old, I found it very liberating to leave all my stuff behind and even contemplated selling it all when we returned. I didn’t, but sometimes I still long for that time when everything we “needed” could be fit into a small sedan.

    • itsasmallworldafterallfamily 22/02/2010 at 3:42 pm #

      I’m hoping that when we get back, we’ll feel differently about all the stuff, and get rid of lots. But I’m sure a year down the line, we’ll be back in the same position.

  2. sgillers 22/02/2010 at 3:26 pm #

    I def. know what you mean. I’ve started a charity shop pile, everything i come across that i dont love and isnt functional goes in the pile and i take stuff down to the charity shop once a month! The difficulty is that my husband is a horder so he takes things out!

    • itsasmallworldafterallfamily 22/02/2010 at 3:41 pm #

      I’m constantly taking stuff to the charity shop too. One of the problems is inherited stuff. I’ve got a huge pile of bedlinen from my grandmother. I don’t want to get rid of it, but our linen cupboard is now overflowing. I know I’ll use it all one day, but for now it’s too much. I can’t get rid of the non-grandmother linen either, cos I’d rather the children were sick/weed/pooed on the high school musical sheets!

  3. Heather 22/02/2010 at 4:08 pm #

    I envy that actually, not having loads of stuff, so many toys that never get played with etc.

    • itsasmallworldafterallfamily 22/02/2010 at 6:47 pm #

      We have cupboards full of toys. What are they playing with as i type? A free balloon.

  4. TheMadHouse 22/02/2010 at 4:24 pm #

    Stuff, the scurge of my life. I was looking for a library book for 4 months!!

    • itsasmallworldafterallfamily 22/02/2010 at 6:50 pm #

      I gave up with one. I’d renewed it every week for thre. Years before deciding that I must have left it in a holiday cottage.

  5. notsuchayummymummy 22/02/2010 at 5:05 pm #

    Under the sofa. That’s where I find all of Sam’s. I’ve seen him pushing them under (only the library books, not his), I have no idea why.

    • itsasmallworldafterallfamily 22/02/2010 at 6:48 pm #

      Nope, just checked under the sofa. I found a slipper, a dried satsuma slice, a small car and a lot of dust. But no library book.

  6. Jennifer 23/02/2010 at 3:35 am #

    I’ve been finding that process quite liberating. Every time I go to the shops now, the question is would I be prepared to store this for a year. I’ve not bought anything much for two months (since we decided to take a year travelling). At this rate the budget for our holiday will increase!

    But can’t quite manage that with the kids books, yet. We still have heaps, and we’re adding them every week.

    • itsasmallworldafterallfamily 23/02/2010 at 12:44 pm #

      I took three bulging carrier bags of children’s books to the charity shop yesterday and recycled a further two bags of magazines and books that were too damaged to sell (pop up books that don’t pop up etc). I also really try to limit what we buy these days, particularly the children’s clothes. It was getting ridiculous when they were younger, because people would buy them so much stuff that they’d grow out of before they’d even had a chance to wear it. I gave bags and bags to my sister in law who distributed them all between herself and her sisters.

  7. Aquin 23/02/2010 at 6:24 am #

    When we did our 200+ day trip, we realized how we can get by on so little. Our 18 month old was content playing with his 4 matchbox cars and things we found around our rental apartments. Also I couldn’t ever complain that “I have a cupboard full of clothes but nothing to wear!” 🙂 Contentment was finding a pair of clean clothes to change into before we came across the next washing machine!
    Books was a trickier issue. We ended up buying a tote to just carry around all our books. But we periodically mailed home the books we had bought, finished reading and couldn’t bare to part with. Relatively cheap when you use the slowest-overland parcel service offered by the country’s post office. We mailed 5 such ‘boxes’ (from Estonia, Russia, China, Vietnam and Hong Kong) and I am happy to report that everything arrived in good condition.

    • itsasmallworldafterallfamily 23/02/2010 at 12:40 pm #

      Books do worry me rather, particularly as the children are learning to read, so need special books all of their own. I’m hoping to use libraries in Australia and New Zealand (particularly as they have free wifi in NZ!) and also our sony ereader to expand our library. Otherwise it’ll be swapping, second hand bookshops with the odd purchase.

  8. Laura 23/02/2010 at 12:20 pm #

    I have the same trouble with library books, though not as many as you. Usually 1 or 2 still at home.

    I’m still looking forward to your ‘what’s in our backpacks’ post with utter glee.

    • itsasmallworldafterallfamily 23/02/2010 at 12:36 pm #

      I was thinking of stringing the posts out, one on electronics, one on clothes etc to keep you entertained…

  9. Nickie @ Typecast 24/02/2010 at 12:11 am #

    I have a feeling that if I “forget” to return one more library book that I’ll be on the Lenders Blacklist and I’ll have to come with you to escape the shame!

    • itsasmallworldafterallfamily 24/02/2010 at 11:05 pm #

      there are worse things to have to do…

  10. Tanya 26/02/2010 at 2:01 am #

    Oh for a library. Its one thing I really miss it gets pretty expensive buying books all the time!

    • itsasmallworldafterallfamily 26/02/2010 at 11:52 am #

      We were planning to visit libraries in NZ and Oz, a good place to spend a rainy afternoon and catch up on school work and emails.

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