Big Words: Not Necessary

“Don’t own so much clutter that you will be relieved to see your house catch fire.

― Wendell Berry

I was at our local craft store yesterday picking up some dried moss for Audrey’s Native American project at school. Craft stores feel a little bit like a dollar store or IKEA in terms of the possible sensory overload. Besides the aisles of fabric and yarn, they also stock lots of trinkets and holiday/seasonal decorations. Even though I only came in for the moss, I am the kind of person who tends to absorb everything I see. I started to get distracted looking at heart shaped wreathes when I heard another woman shopping with her cart say something aloud to herself.

She was holding a round wreath made of vines or sticks when she shook her head and placed it back on the hook saying, “Not necessary…not necessary.”

It feels like we are constantly accumulating “stuff” in our home, and even though I keep donating multiple bags to the Vietnam Vets, there is always more to donate six months later. The Konmari method  for decluttering really does work (I’ve tried it), but I always felt like she doesn’t get to the heart of the matter. She can help us sort and cull and make a clean, clutter-free space, but my question is, why do we keep collecting or accumulating so much stuff we don’t really want in the first place? Why are storage units so prevalent today? We can’t fit our things in our house anymore, so we need to store them elsewhere- just incase. Why do we have so many things that “don’t spark joy” to use her words?

Yes, some of the items we collect are well meaning gifts or hand-me-downs, but I think more often, they’re things that we purchase or accumulate because we fail to say those two simple words: “not necessary.” And I don’t think those words only apply to the material “stuff” in our lives. What if we used them when we started to berate ourselves in our private self-talk. “Everyone else seems to have it together. Why can’t I?”  “Not necessary.” What if we used it when we were tempted to gossip about someone, even if we prefaced it with, “Not that I want to gossip but…” “Not necessary.” What if we used it before that extra indulgence that we want to believe is self-care, but is really just self-comfort- that Netflix marathon or giant bowl of popcorn. “Not necessary.” (OK, sometimes that one is necessary!)

She shook her head, placed the wreath back on the hook, and moved along with her cart. I left the store with a couple of other things besides the moss, but also with those two words tucked away, “Not necessary.”

If you haven’t seen this George Carlin bit on “stuff,” enjoy. It gets me every time.

This is a part of a series called “Big Words.” See other posts here and here.


I thought about buying this stuffed heart (pictured above) at Target—another dangerous shopping experience—for Audrey a few weeks ago. Thankfully, I always do a final edit of my Target cart before checking out. I put it back.





11 thoughts on “Big Words: Not Necessary”

  1. I love this post, Julia! It’s so very applicable in my life, too, in all the ways you mentioned. Thank you for sharing this 🙂

    1. Hi Judy, I’m sorry about that. It’s possible you signed up twice; I’m not sure. Subscribers (you) control emails. Bloggers are unable to unsubscribe readers. I think the easiest thing to do would be to click on the “unsubscribe” link at the bottom of one of the emails. If it completely unsubscribes you, you can always re-subscribe.

  2. How do you draw the line between self care and self comfort? I’m definitely guilty of doing too much of the latter but I don’t see asceticism as a realistic or (for me) particularly worthwhile goal either. I’m sure there’s something between the two extremes and I’m sure you’ve thought about it and come up with a very sensible guideline :-).

    1. That’s a great question! I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately,(not sure I have a sensible guideline yet though!) so I’ll share more on this in next week’s post. I agree with you, let’s not be ascetics!

  3. Oh. My. Gosh. Did you run into ME??? I had that experience just a few weeks ago; I was wandering thru, intending only to purchase quilt batting. And there I was, in the wreath and flower section, picking up things and muttering. Had a brief conversation with another woman “of a certain age” (yes, we both have white hair), also muttering about prices and necessities. I left with what I wanted. And that was all.

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