I spent an exhausting weekend helping move a family member into assisted living. This person was a hoarder, verging on the kind of hoarder that you see on TV, with tiny trails through stacks of stuff. At two different points I broke down in tears (as did a helper) trying to deal with the masses of crap. We reached the point that all families do, when we just started throwing things away out of desperation, after putting a good amount of it in storage, and pawning some of it off on neighbors. And still, the job isn't done---we either have to return and try to clean the rest out or just abandon the whole thing.
Now, I make part of my living selling vintage and antiques that probably come out of situations just like this---stuff that ends up on the curbside or in thrift stores. Yet, as I stood there, tears streaming down my face, exhausted and frustrated, I had the absolute, overwhelming urge to get rid of everything I own. I did not want anyone else to be in the position that I was finding myself in, raking through someone's stuff, trying to make the judgement calls on what should stay and what should go. I want to make it easy for whoever has to clean up after me when I am gone. And not only that, I want to make it easy to just live in my own space NOW, without the tyranny of the material. Because your stuff can bury you alive.
I have always prided myself on shopping almost exclusively at thrift stores. But let's face it. The reason there are so many thrift stores with so much stuff in them is because here in America, we are drowning in stuff. Yeah, its great that I can go pick up a skirt at a thrift store for 3 bucks but that's only because gazillions of skirts are being made every day and people are so used to the abundance of crap in this country that they discard clothing and other things like used kleenex.
I still advocate buying and owning vintage clothing and goods. It was often well-made and under better conditions than what is made these days. And I probably won't give up my business selling vintage. But after this weekend, my view has definitely changed on just how much stuff one needs to have personally. I probably won't go minimalist---I have another relative who is almost pathologically minimalist, to the point that they become totally anxiety-ridden if they feel they have one too many towels, or whatever it is they are obsessing on at the moment. That's the flip side of the extreme, and I am most certainly a moderate :) But I no longer want to be digging through amorphous piles of crap looking for the one thing I really care about.
How do you deal with "stuff"? Hoarder, moderate, or minimalist? Have you ever had to move someone out?