As we approach Christmas, the lists of wants get developed (and sometimes keep growing). 'Stuff' gets purchased, wrapped, and placed under the tree. We think long and hard about what we can give to one another. Sometimes we start to think about the new 'stuff' we can get to replace the old 'stuff'.
At this time of year, I often notice a real disconnect between me and my 'stuff'.
There are days when I just need to get my hands dirty. Days when the smell of grease, oil, and welding gasses make my heart skip a beat. Days when I need to feel something hard in my hands and gain the satisfaction of solving a problem.
I grew up on a large farm and we did all our own machinery work (except the internals of engines or transmissions) so part of the appeal is nostalgic, but I think it goes deeper. There is something in all of us that desires to be connected to something real, something tangible, something that we can point to and say, “I made that.”
This lack of connection to a product creates a disconnect between us and our ‘stuff.’ We no longer have any idea how much work it takes to build a floor lamp, or a desk, or make a dinner completely from scratch.
We have no idea how to value the things we hold.
In shop class in high school I build an oak lamp from my parents. The materials for the thing cost $80, and I put quite a few hours into it. It was one of the few things in school I was actually proud of accomplishing. That lamp is now in my possession because I couldn’t bear to part with it. The shade doesn’t stay on that well because the holder is just sort of jammed into the top, and the base is not quite straight, but I built it and it gets pride of place in the home.
Maybe if we paid better attention to what it actually takes to produce things, if we had a more intimate connection with the things that we consume, we would be less likely to simply throw out the things that we have.