How Stuff Can, Actually, Make You Happy

ba83d10b931c6575d7f311b262fb00dbI was excited about coming to Pittsburgh, but I was nervous about coming to Becky’s house.

Becky has always described herself as being “one box away from a hoarder.” Jared’s been watching Hoarders – those houses do not look like they’d be fun to visit. Of course, people joke about their eccentricities all the time and usually exaggerate, but I’d been shopping with Becky often enough to know that she could very easily be serious. The girl likes her trinkets, is what I’m saying, and I was kind of terrified how my minimalist habits would clash with her collector tendencies.

I stepped through the front door of her house with one eye closed and my head turned towards the escape of fresh air, an impractical yet instinctive attempt to brace myself for the chaos. I was surprised to find a freshly vacuumed carpet in her living room and no immediate traces of paper piles. I slowly turned to fully face the room, unclenching bit by bit when I wasn’t encountered with stacks of crap. The room was… cute. And clean. And… it didn’t look like a hoarder lived here.

I made my way into the dining room and then the kitchen, impressed but also surprised to find an adorable home that was clean and organized. There was no crap to be found, not even in the most likely places like table tops or counters.

“Um, Becky? This place is really… great.” It was a question as much as a compliment. I was pleased but also confused. Where was the mess and clutter and life-sucking stuff I’d been lecturing her about for months?

“Well, you know, there’s stuff everywhere,” Becky said.

She was only partly right. While the tables and counters were free of garbage, the walls and shelves were joyfully decorated with photos and art and placards of positive affirmations. The window ledge in her kitchen was dotted with happy figurines and the refrigerator was covered with magnets from friends and adventures.

But it wasn’t just stuff. It was a collection of beautiful things and a visual representation of who Becky is as a person: happy and joyful and intentionally grateful.

“Becky, this place is wonderful. It’s not at all what I was expecting. It’s… it’s you. Everything here is great.”

“I remember hearing once that there should always be something that makes you happy in your line of sight,” she told me. “If you’re looking somewhere and what you see doesn’t make you happy, get rid of it and replace it with something that does. Maybe that means a blank wall or maybe it means a happy sign. I don’t know.” She said it casually and with a half laugh at herself, the way she always does when she says something that could be misinterpreted as profound.

I love the idea. I love the idea of surrounding yourself with reminders to be happy. That might be clean spaces, family photos or green plants. It might be a hell of a view of a place that you love. It might even be stuff that someone else would call clutter.

Are there things that make you happy?


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