July 5, 2012
The freedom of less. It truly is more.
I read a study a few days ago (to which I have since lost the link) that likened possessions to noise. The things we own have a palpable presence in our awareness, like blips on a bat’s sonar. I’ve been thinking about this a fair bit of late, having just moved house. There is nothing like having to handle a thing several times in the packing and unpacking of it, then having to find a place to put it, to make you wonder just what it is worth to you. If I had to move again, would I be willing to wrap this in paper yet again, stuff it in a box, lug it up and down stairs?
As I mentioned in a previous post, the new flat is what real estate agents would call bijoux. It is, in fact, tiny. Particularly the kitchen, which a nephew recently confirmed when he visited for the first time by saying, “Wow, this kitchen is really small!” For a five year old boy to notice, it must be true. All this to say, I don’t have room for a lot of ‘stuff’. Even before I moved, though, and what I owned was in boxes stored in someone else’s basement, I could feel the weight of responsibility for those items. The things we own aren’t neutral in our lives – they need upkeep – cleaning, repairing; they need to be stored somewhere; they cost money in the acquiring of them… and so on. There is no such thing as ‘free stuff’.
Noise is a common stressor, and in fact is one of the leading causes of heart attack in women. If possessions are like noise, do they impact our well-being in the same way? Is it possible to be stressed by the things we own? I think yes. Maybe not so much by things like shoes or clothes pins, but definitely big ticket items like vehicles, homes, vacation properties, jewelry that comes in pretty robin’s egg blue boxes (where did that diamond get to this time?)
Except for a car that will soon require serious maintenance work, I don’t have those things to worry about. However, I am finding – perhaps because I’m growing older, or maybe because I’m more drawn to simplicity these days – that even shoes and clothes pins have to prove their worth before I’ll put up with them. Or rather, put them up, as in give them space in my home. I’m reluctant to hold on to, or buy new, single-purpose anythings. Before I buy a new kitchen gadget, for example, I want to know I will be able to use it for more than only cleaning blue potatoes (I’m sure Martha Stewart has just such an item: The Martha Stewart Collection Blue Potato Scrubber, for those delicate heirloom tubers).
In terms of serving a purpose, I consider being beautiful a vital contribution of an object. Or having sentimental meaning. Both have great value for me, when considering whether I will keep a thing or not. Unpacking from this latest move I found I had many things I'd forgotten about, or had several duplicates of. Biting the bullet, I donated two sets of mixing bowls and a set of rather large wineglasses. I decided I only needed one of each, and I kept the one I actually liked and used. That is how I am going to approach my stuff from now on. Do I already have one of these? Do I really need this? Do I actually like it? Will I use it, or just think about using it? Will I eventually feel guilty about it, or, will it stay in a box in the basement when I move next time? In other words, I will consider carefully before bringing yet another thing into my home. (Sarah wrote about this very thing when TFG first began. You can read her excellent article here.)
I went away a few weekends ago, and for the first time ever managed to pack everything into one small overnight bag. I was so elated, and really rather proud of myself, because I had never managed to do it before – usually taking along 3 books, a journal, notebook, crocheting bag, clothing options for every weather condition possible… etc. I felt so light all weekend long! Not only was it easy to carry and store it all, but I wasn’t focused on what I was going to wear, because the selection was already streamlined and I wasn’t befuddled by choice.
Let's be rebels, flout the ad agencies, and let the Joneses keep up with themselves. Choose simplicity and peace over the latest and greatest gotta-have-it. Let go of the extraneous bits and pieces that weigh you down.
Have less; be free!