Continuing to wade through more weighty questions about the nature of “stuff”. The stuff we fill our homes with. The stuff we consume, collect and cart around like excess baggage. The stuff we have such a hard time dealing with as we get older and events suggest that it’s time to make a change. Move-down and scale back. Transition into another lifestyle involving less stuff and more connection to the “experience” of life.
If you are wondering whether this is a suitable subject for a “real estate” column, I recommend you talk to your favorite Realtor. Ask him/her to share a few stories about the complicated relationships people have with their stuff. How all the layers of ambiguity and inertia around stuff can profoundly affects someone’s ability to even “think” about selling their home – let alone doing it. Even when they know it’s a good idea. And even when, in some instances, they know they have to.
Or talk to someone who does home staging for a living. Is there a more instantly recognizable cliche in the era of “Million Dollar Listing” than the impeccably staged house that everyone knows bears no resemblance to the way any of us really live? But somehow in its abject, impeccable falseness still possesses the ability to elicit powerful, visceral fantasies about a perfectly ordered life where everything is always in the right place.
Most professional stagers say that most important part of their work lies in getting rid of things people have filled their homes with. The delicate euphemism most often used is “de-cluttering.” But the “de-cluttering” process is often best achieved through the use of an indelicate 40-yard dumpster, large pickup truck and crew of three beefy guys. Staging a home well, like aging well, is a process of mindful addition by mindful subtraction.
We all live somewhere along the “continuum of stuff.” More or Less. Somewhere between the enlightened Zen Monk who maintains a rigorous attachment to owning nothing and the poor soul that was out-ed in last week’s episode of A&E’s Extreme Hoarder. The person who suffered helpless attachment to just about everything she had piled into the strata of high snaking canyons winding through her rooms.
Judging by your emails, many of you have self-diagnosed issues with stuff. And many want to know exactly what to do with their stuff – asking for some miraculous solution along the lines of “10 Easy Steps to Curing your Inner Hoarder.” But Rome wasn’t built in a day and the mountain of possessions most of us have amassed over a lifetime isn’t going to disappear in a day. Peace of mind isn’t going to come from a short trip to the landfill or a quick intervention by the Salvation Army. This is a much longer haul headed in the direction of quality of life.
Next week I’ll share excerpts from a recent conversation I had with an expert in the field of “stuff.” A thoughtful and empathetic observer of the human condition. And a mindful helper/advisor/guide for those trying to reorient their relationships to their own stuff. Her business is called The Home Weeder and with a master’s degree in Sociology and a 30 yr career in counseling, she offers a full-service approach to those who are feeling a bit buried.