This column is about stuff


June 30, 2010 at 1:30 a.m.


Yes, you read that headline right. This column is about stuff.

Why, you ask? Well, when my editor hollered from the other end of the newsroom "Aprill, what's your column about this week?" I yelled back "I don't know ... stuff."

And here we are.

(I'm just glad I didn't go with my initial internal response, which was "your mom").

So now I am stuck writing about stuff. The more I think about it, however, the more I think it's actually a really good topic. As the great and wise philosopher George Carlin once said, the meaning of life is simply to acquire more stuff. And if that is the case, I am well on my way to nirvana, baby.

Six years ago when I graduated college, I could fit all my stuff into two garbage bags (the luggage of choice for all sophisticated new graduates).

A year and a half ago when my husband and I moved across town, it took a semi-truck, four cars, three pickups and a Jeep full of garbage bags (the luggage of choice for all sophisticated women on the verge of 30) to move all my stuff.

To be honest, I'm not even sure how it happened. One day, my stuff consists of a George Foreman grill, a Shakespeare bobble-head and sweatpants and the next I'm dangerously close to being a candidate for "Hoarders."

So, just like any time there is a phenomenon we can't explain, I came up with a crackpot theory. I call it the Fish Bowl Theory (The Why Do We Freakin' Need So Much Stuff And Junk That Serves No Useful Purpose Other Than To Drive Us Crazy Theory seemed too long).

Just like how a fish will only grow as big as the tank it is in allows, we only buy enough stuff that will reasonably (or sometimes unreasonably) fit into our homes. Thus, now that I have my own place, suddenly I feel an overwhelming urge to fill it with back issues of Vogue and 67 different kinds of lotion from Bath and Body Works.

Nowhere was this theory more evident than when we made the aforementioned cross-town move from a two-story apartment to a smaller townhouse. When we lived in the apartment, we had five TVs. Mind you, that's for two people.

Two people.

Five TVs.

Let me say that again, in case you didn't catch the ridiculousness of the situation.

Two people.

Five TV's.

But since we moved to a place with less rooms, we now only have three TVs.

Mind you, that's still just for two people.

And don't even get me started on my husband's stuff (suffice it to say he has enough comic book paraphernalia to make Stan Lee jealous). Even my dogs have stuff (I mean, doesn't every dog need their own Boba Fett-shaped squeaky toy?).

Even more ridiculous than owning all this stuff is my apparent compulsive need to take as much of it with me wherever I go. Despite the fact I have a home, which is specifically designed to house all my stuff, I pack as much of that stuff into my oversized purse as possible on a daily basis (and when I say oversized, I mean one of the Advocate interns could hitch a ride in it). Alas, once that purse reached the average weight of a 10th-grader, I had to also start carrying other bags with me wherever I went to bring even more stuff with me, including a camera bag and a laptop case (with extra pockets!).

Even at work I'm not safe from my stuff. Technology has made it possible for me to carry around a bunch of stuff I don't need on things like my cell phone and computer, such as various apps, old photos and videos, old documents, defunct programs and annoying e-mails from my mother asking when I'm going to make her a grandmother.

My life is increasingly being dominated by my stuff. And I doubt I'm the only one. People today own 74 percent more stuff than they did 30 years ago (pay no mind to the fact that 83 percent of statistics are made up on the spot). In fact, when I'm not out buying more stuff, the rest of my time is spent cleaning my stuff, organizing my stuff or trying to find my stuff amid my other stuff.

And ultimately, it's making me increasingly unhappy.

So why do we do this to ourselves? Call me a dirty hippie in need of a haircut if you will, but I highly doubt that the whole point of life is to work just so we can get more stuff. I mean, think back to the happiest moments in your life. Did any of them involve stuff?

(Naturally, this excludes the time you ladies found that perfect little black dress and you men bought that giant high-definition flat screen, of course).

I, for one, have had enough and am making a conscious effort to ban all useless stuff from my life from here on out. All I really need to be happy is my husband and my dogs.

And one good book.

Maybe a glass of wine.

That hat I bought in New Zealand, strictly for nostalgia purposes only.

Oh, and my new Daria complete DVD set.

But that's it. That's all I need.

Aprill Brandon is a reporter for the Advocate. Stuff spelled backward is Ffuts, which has its own Facebook page. I wish I was kidding.



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