Do you sometimes get the feeling you are drowning in stuff? Do you spend a good amount of time organizing? Dusting? Or shuffling stuff from one spot to another? I do. I sometimes feel like I can never find an end in sight. Lately its as if a little birdie has been whispering in my ear urging me to purge. Is it the pregnancy (yes I am)? Is it spring? Or is this new outlook on life this challenge has given me?
We had our walls insulated this week, which requires moving everything off and away from them. After we moved it all they covered it with god awful plastic, but even still a fine layer of dust covered everything. Everything. I have huge regret that I didn’t do a better job of covering it myself, because now I am stuck cleaning every nook and cranny of every object that I own. As I scrub each item I have been haunted by the words of people like Zero Waste Guru Bea Johnson, Marie Kondo the queen of tidying up, and naturalist mommy the NeoHippie. They tell us to “live with less” “if you don’t use it lose it” “kids do better with less” “stuff weighs you down” and it goes on. Giving up plastic, adopting zero waste, rethinking my purchases, buying used clothes, all of this has changed me. Has changed the way I look at “things”. That frustration I feel when I trip over a toy is almost a plea from above to downsize. We live in a small house, with little to no storage, no garage, 1950s closets, I think compared to others we are minimalist, but I still feel like I am drowning in stuff.
So as I clean each item I ask myself, do I really NEED this? Do I want to take the time, time that I could spend doing something better, to take care of this? Does it enrich my life? Does it have a purpose, other than an emotional one? That last question is often what I find holds me back the most. “it was my grandmothers” or greats from there, is what I am always saying. I come from a family with rich history, preserved history. For instance the dresser that is in our bedroom belonged to the Uncle of my great great grandmother. I am the first generation in many to not be considered a pack rat, but I still feel an obligation to keep things for the memory, or for someone else’s memory. Having some old things are great of course, but when your three your old starts to ask you “is it your grandma’s?” every time you ask her to be careful with something you start to realize you have a problem. This is one area of my life where I really wish I could be more like my husband. Robert and I joke that if we were to go our separate ways he would take the TV and two boxes, one of vintage sports memorabilia and the other of high school photos and momentos, plus his clothes. Everything in our house is either something I inherited or acquired along the way. He is not attached to things, they serve no emotional value to him. You might say that is the difference between men and women, but I know far too many pack rat men to make that assumption.
Today I loaded the car with books we don’t enjoy reading, housewares we don’t use, electronics that never worked how they should, and duplicates. I took the books to the used bookstore that benefits the library, the housewares and electronics to a thrift shop that is supported by a local church. Everyone was very happy to receive the donations. It felt great. I still have so far to go, but every little bit helps. You could instead of donating sell it, but I tried with a few good items and it was disappointing. Its a lot of work, correspondence, and too many let downs for me to feel like that was worth while. Too much time wasted, plus it delays the purging process and gathers dust in the process. Some people are really good at making money off their items, but alas I am not one of them. Not enough time in the day for me.
After cleaning out Marilyn’s kitchen I noticed her actually playing with it. She had four different sets of food, enough plates for an army, and utensils galore. It was hard to look at which is probably why it was so difficult for her to play with. I don’t work well with a messy desk, I imagine its hard to go into imagination mode with a cluttered backdrop. It was one of NeoHippie’s Instagram posts that really got me started on this purge idea. She said “We have cleaned out Aston’s toy boxes, and now she almost doesn’t have any toys at all. Studies show that kids get more focused, more creative and less stressed when they have less toys, and so do the parents.” I can vouch for that last one for sure. In fact I almost picked up a copy of “The Price of Privilege” today at the used bookstore thinking that this would motivate me further to purge and embrace this simpler life. But remember I was there donating books, and since I still have a stack in my “to read” pile I passed, maybe next time?
A lot of rambling, but that is because I am neither just beginning or just finishing up my quest to downsize. I am not sure what the end result will be but since I have lightened a little of my life I feel empowered to keep going. The point of our new years resolution was to change out of love for our children and their future and hope to encourage others to take the same leap. Marilyn did not embrace giving her things away, she’s three how could she. Today at the bookstore she began to cry about giving up her books, but as we looked through them I helped her realize that all her favorites were at home on her shelf. I was giving away mommy’s books that she did not like to read (I studied to be a teacher and started collecting books my freshmen year of college – this is why we have so many not because we spoil our child ridiculously) I also informed her that there was still a stack a home that she and I must go through together. She could decide to keep them for herself, give to the baby, or donate to a family who needs a good book. This motivated her and we have both enjoyed going through them so far. As I sat and read her “tut tut c’est parti!” in french which I collected in France during my first trip, we giggled and had fun not quite understanding every word. She has solidified that my mission is correct. If giving her a brighter more beautiful future means living with less I can certainly get on board with that!
Additional food for thought:
“Photos are a good way to keep the memory of something without keeping it because of emotional attachment or the guilt of letting it go.” Put another way: Hang onto the photo of your grandmother in her fur coat, but if you never wear the coat, it’s just taking up space in your closet.
– Bea Johnson