I’m suddenly on the move again.
Most people dislike moving, but I’ve always enjoyed it. There are so many lovely places to live, so many different environments to inhabit. I also like the reminder that people are my primary residence and that space is secondary.
The Excess of Material Possessions
Another thing I enjoy about moving is that it forces me to confront my material life at some point
You realize I don’t just mean towels, but let’s start there. How many towels will we require? Really. There are the big towels (shower), hand towels, wash cloths, decorative towels, guest towels (x 2), beach towels, and, of course, the old, rough, ripped, and stained towels that I can’t seem to get rid of. We could probably host the majority of our friends and their children if there was a sudden downpour or lake party, according to my calculations.
Of course, I’m not just referring to towels. This is a life of excess, spent preparing for a day that may never come. Moving to a new home forces me to confront, once again, that I am woefully overprepared for a life I am not living and, truth be told, will never live. How many glasses (of various types) are there in the cupboard? What about plates and silverware? When was the last time I hosted a seated dinner for 12 or more people? The answer is never. Candles? Camping equipment? Utensils for the kitchen? Tupperware? Cookbooks? Raw silk gowns suitable for high tea at the St. Paul Hotel?
I’m purposefully omitting detailed descriptions of the toys, board games, sleds, clothing, books, and tools that my dear family treasures, but the excess is the same.
I’ve often heard it said that you should only keep the things you love. This appears to be sound advice at first glance, but it is worth questioning because it is difficult to enjoy anything after a certain point of excess. And because I frequently find that even the things I enjoy, if not more so, become burdensome to me.
This is the shift I’ve noticed in myself over the last decade of moving. Years ago, I was most bothered by the possibility that someone else was using all of the items that I had left unused. And this argument has been made many times more effectively by others. But now I’m also concerned about myself. I believe these things are taking up physical and mental space in my life. This energy of future and past lives appears to be a direct denial of my current life. Most importantly, it appears to be draining our vitality.
The Toll of Household Responsibilities on Women’s Mental Health
By “us,” I mostly mean women, because it is often the women who deal with household matters. In a generation of women with far more freedom than our mothers, I believe it is the constant inflow and outflow of things that saps our life energy.
And this is our decision, even if it is unconscious. Women are estimated to be responsible for 78% of household spending in the United States. In other words, the towels did not arrive on their own. According to the statistics, we are primarily to blame for the influx of beach towels and the 2 gallon container of ketchup. Add this to the three grocery store stops a week for just in case meals, guest lotions and candles, just in case my son’s friend forgets his toothbrush, cases and cases of bottled water, pop, “snacks,” and so on. We appear to believe that stockpiling says something about us as humans. This consumes a lot of time and energy, because we’re also decorating, remodeling, and redecorating (Pinterest anyone? ), and trying to find the right towels. To be honest, most of our homes are beautiful, much more so than the ones we grew up in, because they are increasingly well-maintained. The fantasy lives of the past and future are preserved, but we as caregivers are worn. We are exhausted by this never-ending activity, this never-ending preparation for the “just in case” life.
Prioritizing Self-Care and Meaningful Connections in a World of Constant Preparation
Meanwhile, we are more depressed and anxious than men. Many of us argue that we don’t have time to care for ourselves. Similarly, we have little time for our families and friends. We are too tired to read to the kids at night. Hobbies and interests were once commonplace. We claim that there is no time. However, the stockpile indicates otherwise.
The strange reality is that there is enough time, but it is being spent on draining and overwhelming activities.
So I ask you the same question I’ve been asking myself: When was the last time you were completely out of something? And even if you can recall a time when this occurred, did it make a difference? Was anyone even aware?
When was the last time you were too exhausted to take care of yourself? When was the last time you spent your vacation time doing housework?
Finally, when was the last time you sat unhurriedly with someone you care about?