( Originally Published 1916 )
Miss MATHILDA TOMMET of Milwaukee left a will the other day eight and one-half feet long, written in her own hand on sheets of paper pasted together. In it she bequeathed to one relative "my best bedspread and one-half of my best towels"; to another a high-backed chair, admonishing her executors to "be sure to take the one standing on the north side of the sideboard"; to another her chickens and feed; while vegetables, fruit, pickles, a pail of lard, and "father's old clock" go to another, and to her dearest enemy a pair of old shoestrings.
Then there was Thoreau, who in his house by Walden Pond would have no furniture; he found a stone once which he fancied, and kept awhile, but soon threw it away, as he found it had to be dusted.
One of the greatest tyrannies of life is THINGS.
The most common form of insanity is the mania to OWN.
One of the first acts of a person who comes into money is to load himself down with a pile of rubbish that makes his life a fret and his death-bed terrible.
The very rich collect. They get together spoons, canes, pictures, vases, pitchers, books, or marbles. When there is no more room for them in the house they build a wing and pack it full.
I knew a man who had $20,000 worth of old postage stamps locked up in a safety deposit vault.
I knew an old woman who never travelled, although she longed to travel and had plenty of means, because she was afraid her parlor carpet and her blue china dishes would not properly be taken care of.
The stores are heaped up with THINGS. The most skilful men are employed to persuade people to buy THINGS for which they have no earthly use.
Every home contains sets of books that were bought at a high rate, and that have stood for years without a soul looking into them.
American living rooms are as cluttered as Westminster Abbey. Every mantel is loaded with junk. The walls are covered with pictures, most of them bad. The floors are so thick with chairs and superfluous stands and tables that few can wind their way through them by day and none by night.
Things, things, things ! Bedrooms are full of them, closets heaped with them, the attic is choked with them, the woodshed and barn are running over.
When we go away on vacations we take trunks full of things. When we go to Europe also we find that baggage is the plague of our life.
It is a relief to turn to the books of the Hindus and read:
"Even if they have longer remained with us, the objects of sense are sure to vanish. Why, then, not forsake them ourselves? If they pass away by themselves they cause the greatest pain to the mind, but if we forsake them ourselves they cause endless happiness and peace."
And in another Oriental book we find this searching word:
"For a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of THINGS which he possesseth."