Belongings have meaning. Stuff takes up space. Stuff distracts us from what is important. The more we have things to manage, the less time we have to spend doing what we enjoy. Belongings have value, meaning, and function. They deserve a place in our lives. But where do we draw the line?
An example. This past week Kathleen and I each acquired a new drinking container. Hers came in the form of a new 20 ounce glass bottle covered with green rubber to keep it from breaking. It has a screw top with a flip cap for easy access. I saw it for sale at Whole Foods and fell in love with it. I liked the idea, the material, the color, green, Kathleen’s favorite.
Kathleen works 12 hour shifts as a nurse in the Intensive Care Unit. I can’t say that this is true for all nurses, but I know that Kathleen doesn’t drink enough water. More often than not, she comes home dehydrated. Truth is, many of us, including me, don’t drink enough water.
I saw a water bottle at the store that Kathleen’s name all over it. While I considered its virtues and debated whether to buy it, I thought that if she really liked the bottle, it would inspire her to drink more water. Do we have other bottles like it at home? Not exactly. This had an appeal like none of the others. I would happily make another one or two disappear if this one worked. I bought it!
My new drinking container came in the form of a beautiful ceramic mug. Sally and I were working together and she made me tea in it. Now, tea is something I need to drink more of. Less seltzer, less caffeine, less alcohol even, more water and more tea (herbal). I have known this for a while but haven’t yet formed the habit.
Sally saw how much I enjoyed the tea she made me (camomile with honey), so as a thank you gift she gave me the mug for my very own. I was touched. I went right home and made myself more yummy, healthy tea. That was four days ago and I have had at least two mugs every day since. I love how the mug looks, how it feels in my hand, how much tea it holds. I love its good vibes.
These two new containers have meaning on several levels for us. #1, they were given with love. #2, they do their respective jobs very well. #3, they are both aesthetically pleasing. Each has earned a place in our hearts and in our home.
The question is how many water bottles and mugs do we need? I already have enough mugs, so I am going to clean out a couple from the shelf in the cupboard to make room for my new one. I have learned that mugs require more than their fair share of real estate in order to have a long life. They need wiggle room so that the handles don’t get broken. We need the same room in the water bottle drawer. The bottles we don’t use or love just get in the way of finding the ones we want.
So can you see the difference between belongings and stuff? Keep less stuff. In every corner, on every surface, in every closet, keep less. All the items in our homes should be able to pass a test. They should deserve to belong in our space. As my buddy William says, “Save time, not stuff.”