While we’re all at home, and no one has to cram chores in between school and work (and homework, and all the extra office work that comes home) and extracurricular activities required for college admission or keeping competitive workplace advantage, between exercizing and trying to eat well, between needing to sleep and needing to have mental downtime and needing (needing?!?!) to keep up with pop culture and news…

While we’re all trapped on board the USS Our House, with no daily structure, my family has instituted our own structure in order to stay sane (and especially deal with the energy of a teenage boy). We get out and exercise first thing, then we tackle a big project as a family.

Last week’s big project was “throwing stuff out.” This was, in part, triggered by the fact that since I am now unemployed, we are relying solely on my husband’s pension (and lucky to have it). That means the storage unit is a luxury that we can no longer afford. Like far too many Americans, we have far too much stuff; a lifetime spent acquiring things because that’s how you measure success at this game. Do we need all this? No. Did we ever? Well, some of it was baby stuff that’s been outgrown, and some was starter furniture that lingered, but mostly: No. We did not.

We just threw out more weight than the State Department shipped across the country for us when we joined. If we doubled all our household effects from our early 20s, we would almost equal what we just disposed of. Sure, we have a kid and a cat now, and a house rather than an 800 square foot apartment…but still. We were okay with less stuff.

I think that might be a metaphor for so many Americans.

We will be okay with less stuff.

And not just phsyical stuff. I was going to upgrade my phone before this. Now I can’t afford to, and you know what? That’s been fine. I haven’t used it much. I’ve gone whole days without checking it. My stress levels are way down.

Julio Vincent Gambuto has been thinking along similar lines. If you have not read his essay “Prepare for the Ultimate Gaslighting” on Medium, you really should.

We’ve stopped everything, all the bullshit noise of consumerism. We do not, should not, pull all of it back out of the dumpster.

We should, on the other hand, mindfully consider what we want to keep. An economy based on manipulating people into buying landfill-to-be is not something I want to keep. A life running as fast as I can in order to “level up” and get the promotion or get the kid into a good school, so that we can continue to kill ourselves for the next fake achievement is not something I want to keep.

An economy based on taking care of each other, where social and civic jobs are remunerated and valued? I want to keep that. I want to keep the clear air and water, the sparse traffic, and the free time.

Read Gambuto’s essay, and prepare yourself to reject the lies. We have a chance to make things better. Let’s take it.


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