Enough Stuff

By Melissa Face

Enough Stuff

My friend, Dawn, put her house on the market last month. In order to prepare it for showings, she had to make a few repairs, do a bit of painting, and most importantly, get rid of some stuff.

Dawn cleaned out her son Reid’s room and put a few things in storage and tossed a few in the garbage. When she was finished, her preschooler looked at his room and exclaimed, “Mommy! This is the best room ever!”

Instead of being sad that some of his toys were gone, Reid was thrilled that he had more room in which to play.

I wasn’t at all surprised to hear that he was ecstatic. I know how I feel when I clean out a closet, organize a drawer or purge an entire room. It’s cathartic. It’s incredible. It’s like losing 20 pounds without having to diet. Why would we think children would feel any differently? Too much stuff clutters our homes, overwhelms our minds, and it certainly interferes with a child’s play.

In recent years, my husband and I have become very aware of the negative effects of too much stuff and have been fighting the impulse to buy. It’s not an easy battle; messages to accumulate more pervade our lives. There are ads on TV, catalogs in the mail and worst of all…adults! WE are the ones who ask children what they want for their birthdays. WE encourage them to write a detailed list for Santa. WE take them to toy stores and gift shops and then act appalled when they throw their little bodies in the middle of the aisle because we told them they couldn’t get anything.

I don’t intend to live my life acquiring stuff – not for my children or for me. And in order to fight the stuff battle, I have had to be creative.

It was very easy when my four-year-old was a toddler. Evan and I would spend an hour or so perusing the trains on the toy aisle. When he asked for one, I’d tell him, “If we buy it, you won’t have anything to look at the next time you come here.” He was fine with that rationale. For the next few trips, he was content just looking.

As he has grown older, he has become more aware of what daycare buddies and school friends own, so I have to be even more inventive.

Earlier this summer, Evan and I met my friend Sherry and her son Thomas at the movies. Afterwards, we walked to our cars and Thomas climbed in his mom’s new vehicle.

“Want to see our new DVD player?” Thomas asked.

“Sure!” said Evan. “What are you watching?”

Tom and Jerry. Do you have a DVD player in your car?”

“No,” Evan said with regret.

I’m not opposed to DVD players. We just don’t have one in our current vehicle and buying one is not in the plans right now. That afternoon, Evan and I had a lengthy conversation about why we don’t have some things and other people do.

Finally, I thought to remind Evan about how much he enjoys pretending.

“We may not really have a DVD player, but you can pretend we do,” I told him.

“You’re right, Mom! Will you turn on the DVD player?”

I pressed the button for the interior lights, and Evan quickly thanked me.

“It’s Rescue Bots!” he said. “Thanks for putting it on my favorite show.”

I realize that not all children enjoy pretend play the way my son does. There will come a time when my creative responses will turn into something more practical. I am prepared to eventually tell him that we don’t have some things because we can’t afford them or because we simply do not need them.

Please don’t think that I deny my children their every request. I don’t. We are not moving to Walden Pond anytime soon. I’m not even a true minimalist. I own more than one pair of jeans and more than one purse. And my kids have toys – plenty of toys. I just refuse to let stuff be the focal point of their lives. I don’t want their happiness to be dependent on material possessions. I want them to collect experiences, not things.

We took our first beach trip as a family of four this summer. We stayed in an older, modest, oceanfront cottage on Topsail Island. I informed Evan before we left that this was not a souvenir-buying trip.

The kids spent the week playing in the sand and collecting shells.

When they weren’t on the beach, they played with play-doh and blocks.

It was perfect and completely relaxing.

One day we needed to take a break from the sun, so we spent a few hours at an aquarium. The children enjoyed the jellyfish and seahorses. As we were leaving, we walked past the gift shop.

“Please, mom?” Evan begged. “Can we go in?”

“We can go in, but we aren’t buying anything,” I reminded him.

“I don’t want anything,” he told me. “I just want to look.”

And that is exactly what he did. Evan looked at books, plastic sea creatures, stuffed turtles and aquatic drinking glasses. He admired it all, and we left.

On the way home, we talked about our favorite things we saw. Evan was really excited about the sharks, but wished there had been some larger ones. I enjoyed the starfish; my husband liked the stingrays. The baby just said, “Fish. More fish.”

We left without buying a thing, nothing to clutter up the house, nothing that will end up in an eventual yard sale. Other than a bag of shells, we brought back nothing tangible. We just carried home an abundance of memories, something we always have room for.

About this writer

  • Melissa FaceMelissa Face lives in southern Virginia with her husband, son and daughter. Her stories and essays have appeared in Chicken Soup for the Soul and Cup of Comfort. Email Melissa at writermsface@yahoo.com.

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4 Responses to “Enough Stuff”

  1. Brenda Faison says:

    Once again an awesome story, Melissa. Such an awesome view of creating memories and not “stuff”. I agree with you wholeheartedly!!!!

    Brenda

  2. Melissa, your story reflects the true meaning of appreciating what you DO have instead of always wishing for what you don’t have. More people would not be in heavy debt of they lived this way. Kudos to you.

    • Melissa says:

      Thank you, Linda. We appreciate the simple things, and we still live well. All of that is possible with a small budget and a new perspective.

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