As a newly-minted member of the middle class, I decided this summer it was my duty to de-clutter. After all, I would not be middle-classian were I to hold on to goods that no longer did me any good. Apparently the prevailing reasons to de-clutter – to consume less, to reduce one’s impact on the environment, to save money (no, of course I’m totally fine during my unemployed months), to recycle goods through one’s community rather than let fester or throw out before purchasing anew, to clear a space in order to clear the mind, to use one’s self-power to create, grow, cook, and build – are not genuine. They are the claimed disingenuous reasons of a mad, de-cluttering, privileged population, who, unlike their lower-class counterparts, would not deign to head to a Wal-Mart or Dollarama for cheap garbage bags, light bulbs, and knick-knacks.
Garbage bags made in China? Never. Mine are local, hand-crafted, artisan garbage bags. My stuff will linger in the landfill in luxury.
How do I feel, you ask, as I lug eight bags of books to the second-hand shop? Great. These books mostly represent failure – my failure to ascend the gold-plated ladder of academia, my failure to pay off my student loans expediently with the middle-class salary I was supposed to receive at age 30 or earlier, my failure to find an extra 8 hours in the day to actually read them – so why not cast them off to an ambitious lower class at reduced cost and make those readers feel even worse for not reading their second-hand books and achieving greatness at an efficient rate?
I feel even better when I go to hurl my bags of clothing in the drop bins across from the grocery store and a lady behind me demands she be given the opportunity to root through said bags before I do it. She’s at least 70. I’m a foot and a half taller than her. No, I tell her, with great privileged pride, these gently-used socks* are for the Oasis Addiction Centre, not you. I muster up all the strength built from years of seizing opportunity and heave the bags through the slot.
The worst thing one could do in the de-cluttering process is set aside items for re-sale, since the duty of the well-to-do is to grasp the latest trends of upcycling, repurposing, or trading. If not donating (your first duty, naturally). Well, I’ve already confessed to making an appointment at the bookstore, so I might as well go all the way and just say I’m in it for the money. I mean, who doesn’t want more money? Yup, I might sell some DVDs or unworn dresses, or even a Best Buy store credit from the godawful Acer mini with Windows 10 that I thought would be useful for my European jaunt, but turned out to not even be able to turn on, because wtf else am I going to buy at Best Buy? More DVDs?
Of course, none of these things are weirdo gifts bestowed on my by people who don’t really know me but felt compelled to purchase something upon one of my “achievements” (getting married, moving, finishing a PhD, aging 365 days), nor are they items that I see as having paid “rent” for and can now move on to someone else after I reclaim some of my deposit (I don’t need to watch season two of The Office more than once). Because that would mean I’m a jerk. After all, are we not only defined by our stuff? How else will people know who I am unless they come into my 400-square foot apartment, after lurching up 35 steps, and brush the dust off my 421 books?
YES THAT’S RIGHT. I OWN 421 BOOKS. I counted.
Or how else will I keep my job unless I change my outfits every day for five weeks, so as to keep students’ attention, because lord knows they’re not looking at the notes?
In other words, we need our stuff. So as good as my intentions are – say, stuffing dried chickpeas into a reuseable cloth bag at the bulk store, then storing them in a reusable, washable jar at home, and making many salads, refusing to eat lunch out as way to save money and just, for God’s sake, work less – I’ll probably in the end succumb to using my sold-stuff revenues to buy that awesome new hair-straightening brush and several books on cowboys and western songs that I’ll do nothing with, because I’ll be working to pay off the mastercard bill instead of writing compelling peer-reviewed articles on “The Strawberry Roan.”
*There is no such thing as gently-used socks.