November 15th, 2019

The psychology of stuff: Why your possessions own YOU and won't make you happy

This is a rough topic for a book in the making....
How we live, at least in the Western world, is determined for most people by their job and that job is based largely on how far you believe you can climb, how much money you can make, based on your credentials and talents. Much of this hunting and settling, being promoted, choosing a path is based on education and perhaps for some the old "who you know" can give you a bit of an extra boost. The bottom line is that for most of your life it's likely you've been told that you're supposed to do well in school, develop some type of talents so you can be attractive to said secondary schools, and graduate in a way that makes you attractive to prospective employers. What comes next is a series of trial and error, perhaps getting lucky and finding your way earlier or jumping around to different careers until you find your fit. Either way, the point that is pushed upon us is not so much to be happy, as it is to find a "career." Something you can develop and "grow into." A point of progression that leads you somewhere....who knows if you actually want to be in that 'somewhere,' many people are just too scared to jump outside that box of expectation. I have a doctorate and I will admit I fall into the category of scared to jump into the unknown. We graduate some type of school, be it high school, college or graduate training, and move into a job that hopefully turns into a career and hopefully we like working there forever until you are so old there's nothing left to do but retire and pray your sad earnings and horrible government promises of social "security" give you enough to die peacefully not truly enjoying anything but just scraping by. I don't mean to sound bleak and yet I do mean to sound bleak because this is reality for most of America. You cannot live off your retirement and that's a huge problem. But one to be tackled for another day.

Right now I'm trying and unfortunately getting sidetracked, about the day to day living, how that plays out and why our thinking about life is so messed up it prevents us from ever really achieving happiness, regardless of our incomes. I have spoken to many people about this idea of "stuff" and "owning things" and "property" and the bottom line I've drawn from all of it is that it stems either from a sense of loss of control in other areas of one's life as an attempt to overcompensate for it, or a somewhat misguided yet fully encompassed belief that controlling one's environment will make you feel content and happy.

When I speak with people from earlier generations, this concept makes more sense economically and fiscally. Material items, comparatively, used to cost more hard earned money and thus it made sense that working your job to save up for a nice pair of shoes or some toys for your kid felt right. It was a sense of enjoyment and pride that your hard work paid off and earned those things. At the same time "stuff" used to be made to hold up, passed down, and endure the test of time. Today everything is a cheap commodity, I'm sure this will be edited out if I do publish this, but it's all useless crap, a bunch of shit our kids and ourselves don't really need but buy it because it looks shiny and new and in that split second of an advertisement doing it's job, makes you think it will provide joy.


The reason I'm writing this is because I grew up thinking everything was meant to be saved; everything had a meaning behind it, everything was a token to hold onto a lost past because it was a physical object that could in essence withstand the test of time, unlike humans and relationships and stages of life. If I shoved my entire memory box of high school trinkets and care bears and all my 80's stuff into my closet it would endure forever and make me happy as I was when I was a child....right? I dunno, I never really got to test out the theory because while sleeping with my OG care bear for two nights during this trying time did actually seem to make me feel better, my daughter, who has her own modern care bear, quickly co opted mine and so I'm forever left to wonder what sleeping with your old safety plush animal feels like.

I am so torn....when my dad was alive I loved that we held onto this old stuff and it was so fun to have those memories and I realize his passing is so recent I should naturally feel confused by whether or not holding onto all this stuff will make me happy or sad. For now it sits in limbo just like my mother holds his ashes in an urn and despite having purchased a new house has already picked a spot for him. I don't blame her; she was the reason I became a psychologist in the first place because she was so bad at emotional understanding she refused to let me see someone when I first asked. For me, the holding on is becoming an issue because I really loved my life clutter free and now it's become a sense of keeping things because I have lost a father, and more than that the person who made me who I am. My mom is everything I hate about myself and my father is everything I love. It's hard going through boxes with his writing. But I will say the more I clean out the better stuff gets. Hoarding is a way, but it's not the best way for most.

I also want to address that what I'm saying here wouldn't be included in the book at all; I'm trying to get rid of clutter and useless crap we all accumulate that has no purpose but just builds up over time. I'm coming from a point of clearing out a house of hoarding that I had no idea was going on, something you see on tv, except most of it is actually worth money just nothing that someone could deal with realistically. I'm alone. I want order and sanctity and I want my husband to be well. I can't deal with this all right now, it's too much every day sucks.