Tuesday, July 28, 2009


I watched friends pack up their belongings to move yesterday morning. Moving is probably the ONE activity that really makes you realize in no uncertain terms how much Stuff you have. And it certainly makes you wonder how much Stuff you actually need.

I’ve been staying with a friend who lives just outside Washington, DC in a community in Virginia. The neighborhood she lives in is full of 1960’s era, ranch style houses like the one she lives in with her 3 children – 3 bedrooms, bath, kitchen, living room upstairs, and a basement with a family room, bedroom, laundry room, second bath. You know the type. Many of us grew up in houses just like these. They were serviceable, but certainly not fancy. But what’s interesting about this neighborhood, and many more that I’ve driven through while visiting here, is the changes that are taking place. A house goes on the market for sale, is purchased, but isn’t moved into. Instead, it is bulldozed and replaced with a much, much larger house – the clich├ęd McMansion.

They stick out oddly in the neighborhoods. One or two in most blocks. Instead of the ranch you expect to see, it’s a 2, or even 3, story house whose footprint takes up almost the entire lot it sits on. Some imitate the style of the ranch on a larger scale; others go for the brick and pillar, imitation-plantation style. The families who live in these houses are no larger than the families that live in the original ranch houses, and more significantly, I suspect they are no happier.

It’s ironic that everywhere we turn we are encouraged to be ‘green,’ to reduce, reuse, recycle, be aware of our carbon footprint. Yet, here in our nation’s capitol at least, we still seem focused on having more and more space and acquiring more and more Stuff.

It’s something to be conscious of as I go home to my own house and back to my own Stuff. How much Stuff do I really need? What Stuff do I need? Does my Stuff make my life better or does it cloud my vision and cause me to focus on things that lead me away from where I ultimately want to be?

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