Andrew Dickens: Moving house a reminder of our obsession with stuff

Author
Andrew Dickens,
Publish Date
Sun, 1 Mar 2020, 11:15AM
Most of Andrew's stuff has ended up in a rubbish dump - and he doesn't mind. (Photo / NZ Herald)

Andrew Dickens: Moving house a reminder of our obsession with stuff

Author
Andrew Dickens,
Publish Date
Sun, 1 Mar 2020, 11:15AM

You find me today tired and wondering what on earth I’ve done.

I’m moving on Thursday.  We sold the big old family pile late last year and we’re downsizing into an apartment on Thursday. So we’re feverishly editing the 15 years of accumulation of stuff that happens.  It’s exhausting and emotional and worst of all its hot.  So we’re sweating like pigs as we work day and night.

Here’s what I’ve learnt.

The bigger the house the bigger the clutter.  We realise a lot of stuff has sneaked into our house and hidden itself because there’s space to hide.  It’s been an archaeological dig. Opening cupboards and seeing stuff you haven’t seen for years.

There’s an emotional heft to finding this long hidden stuff.  Paintings done by five year old boys who are now 20. My Joe 90 and Captain Scarlet Matchbox toys that I had when I was five.  Yesterday I found a plastic lunchbox full of rose heads and their petals.  21 of them.  They’re the 21 roses I gave Helen when she turned 21.  We kept them to make confetti for when we got married, which we never quite got round to doing.  34 years later we finally threw them out and had a hug.

Cumulatively all this history flooding back is almost stifling.  I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve ended out sitting in the middle of the floor surrounded by family stuff and crying.

That said, most of the stuff that clogs your life is stuff you didn’t even buy and now realise you didn’t even want.  Promo stuff.  Bags and booklets and presents. Free gifts like picnic blankets and vacuum flasks that all seem to have some value so you keep them, store them, forget them, never use them and eventually you throw them away.

An apartment we realise that has little storage for big stuff.  No attic. No under the house.  No garden shed.  No big dry space for little used big stuff.  Like camping gear.  We’ve got twp tents.  A 2 bedroomer and a 1 bedroomer and all the associated gear like kitchen tables, pantries, cutlery and cookers.  So it begs the question, is this the end of our camping days? It also explains why the storage industry is booming as the apartment sector grows.

So the upshot of this has been the Dickens family filling two 12 metre jumbo bins to the brim and then the truck coming and taking all this unwanted stuff away.

Which brings me to a broader point.  My weekday producer Andrew heard my story the other day and said to me, “You know there’s no such thing as away or out”.

What he means is that while I may have thrown this stuff out and someone has taken it away, it does not mean the stuff does not exist.  My two jumbo bins of crap is now on its way to a landfill.

To look at the sheer volume of my crap.  Add that to our weekly volume of crap we throw out.  Add that to the number of New Zealanders all doing the same.  Add that to the volume of commercial junk we throw out. It all adds up and you realise the horror of the waste mountain we create as a species it immense.

Which is why Auckland’s dumps are full.  Which is why a new dump in the Dome Valley is mooted.  Which is why 300 trucks a day from Day One will be on State Highway 1 full of crap on Day 1.  Which is why in a few short years the number of those trucks will be in the thousands. Which will create its own problems.

We have a stuff problem.  We make and use too much of it. It can’t last.