I am feeling overwhelmed by “stuff” right now. Justin and I are in the process of moving: not very far – just to another apartment across the way – but it still requires boxing up and/or carrying all of our worldly possessions to another space. It hasn’t been that long since we moved. In fact, we did another similar small-scale move just last summer. But each time we do, I find myself in awe of the amount of stuff that we have accumulated over the course of the preceding years.
Each time we move, I diligently clean our drawers, purge our stocks of kitchen gadgets, recycle old documents and articles that have collected in stockpiles around the house, and bag up many little or never-worn outfits to take to our local thrift store. And each time we move, I swear that next time, we will learn our lesson. Next time, we will remember to throw things away, or not to take everything that’s offered to us simply because it is free or low-cost. Next time, I won’t feel the need to buy new furniture or storage gadgets to fit our new space, but I’ll work with what we have.
But somehow, these lessons often wear off quite quickly once we get settled in a new space. There’s always some household décor item or handy IKEA “storage solution” that seems to be of the utmost necessity for our new place.
And frankly, having a baby on the way seems to really exacerbate this situation. One of the most common questions that we get these days is, “Do you have everything that you need for when the baby arrives?” And this is a question that I’ve been asking myself a lot, too. When we set up our baby registries in stores and online, we were bombarded with images of all the things that our baby MUST HAVE in order to be a healthy and well-adjusted child. These included things like a crib, burp clothes, blankets, diapers and bottles. But the lists also included all sorts of crazy, code-worded products, probably meant to seduce young, suggestible, new parents-to-be like us with their cool features and mysterious allure. There were Bumbos, Boppys, Baby Bjorns, Ergo carriers, “Breast Friends,” highchairs, crib bumpers, cute nursery décor, and the list could go on….We’ve already been warned by several other new parents never to enter Babies-R-Us if we wish to maintain our sanity!
And don’t even get me started on the clothes. I mean seriously, have any of you seen the cute little shoes they sell for baby girls? That is one huge consumerist cuteness trap waiting to happen.
While I was feeling overwhelmed trying to sort through these lists of “needs,” one of my friends was kind enough to link me to the Alphamom blog, and her list of the essential items that your baby really might need. I was refreshed to read this post, which reminded me that really, in their first few months of life, all a baby really NEEDS are “1) boobs, 2) diapers, 3) a sling and 4) some jammies. If we were feeling fancy, anyway…”
And as we’re moving, I’m reminded of this anecdote again. There are many people who have written about the “power of enough.” The famous Mennonite cookbook, More-with-Less, has already made more than one appearance on this blog, but as we’ve been moving, I’ve been thinking about the ways that this cookbook offers more than just advice for how to cook simple, flavorful meals, but it offers a great philosophy for thinking through how to approach life in general. You can always do more than you think you can with less. I don’t always need to feel the urge to buy something new, but rather, I can find creative ways to repurpose all of the many “things” that I already own.
There will always be better décor, a cooler kitchen gadget and another adorable pair of sandals for Baby H, and I’m sure that at some point in time, we will in fact purchase some of these things again. But as Mennonite Lynn Miller reminds us, in his book, The Power of Enough, contentment can come from “putting stuff in its place” and not letting our desires to consume control us.