These days, I am all about eliminating the unnecessary. I am no longer interested in living up to anyone else’s expectations. I am past the point of holding on to things because I “should.” I’m more interested in cleared space. I’m more interested in emptiness.
I want peace not chaos.
There are fewer and fewer “shoulds” in my life. I have been trying to pinpoint a minimal-needs baseline that will allow me to tend to my life free of the extraneous bits. “Shoulds” are illusions. They are things I made up about the gap between “what is” and my ideas about what life is supposed to look like. So, I’ve been purging – eliminating the unnecessary. It’s time-consuming. It’s work. And it’s easier and easier to maintain. Once I clear the space, what was there no longer requires my attention. In my efforts to pare away the things that don’t serve me, I have found cleared space. I find myself marveling at emptiness. In many ways, I am becoming an anti-consumer. I am thinking differently.
I don’t need so much stuff.
I’ve heard it said that on the heels of a natural disaster such as a fire or hurricane that a calm emerges. There is freedom inside the emptiness of what’s been lost. I understand that because one of the things that happened after we lost our business seven years ago was that I was swaddled in this sense of relief. In many ways, that event birthed my anti-consumer mindset. We began the slow ascent to leaving behind the unnecessary. In my mind’s eye, I see an image of climbing to the top of the mountain where the view goes on forever and all there is is beauty, and excess baggage is dropped along the route. It’s too much to carry. When we lost the business, we lost the need to maintain any of it. For legal reasons we had to keep those records a while, but no more. Now it’s just a distant memory.
Now, it’s breathing room.
I may have read too many books on getting organized/eliminating clutter. Something has shifted. What I know is there is much that I no longer feel the need to hold onto much. I don’t want to carry around so much. I don’t want to house that much. Yesterday, I threw out a whole box of college work that I had been toting around with me for nearly eighteen years (I had returned to school and gotten my degree in January of 2001). Did I honestly need all those stacks and stack of notebooks?
Nearly forty years back, when my grandfather died, I remember how sad I felt when I was cleaning out his stuff. I had lived with him for a few years so it had fallen on me to empty his apartment. Years earlier, my aunt had moved him from Manhattan to the small town of Waverly, Pennsylvania, because he had emphysema and needed to breathe clean air and be close to his family. He had had so much “stuff” in New York that much of it got left behind when they moved him; so relatively speaking, when he died he didn’t really own that much. Still, there was plenty to sift through. I don’t plan on dying anytime soon but nonetheless, I wouldn’t want anyone to have to purge all my crap. I only want to hold onto things I love.
I’ve emptied out too many houses after the tenants left. It’s astounding how much of their stuff is suddenly too much to be bothered with. Most of us are drowning in our consumerism.
I am still getting a handle on purging, but I am definitely becoming more mindful. Lately, I rarely allow anyone to give me anything and if by chance, I end up with something I don’t really want, I immediately give it away. I don’t need more clutter, so I try not to allow anything to enter the house without conscious consideration. This extends to what I give to others as well since I can’t bring myself to contribute to someone else’s clutter.
I recently finish reading a book called The Year of Less. In it, author Cait Flanders asks the question, “Who are you buying this for: the person you are, or the person you want to be?” I’m ready to stop deluding myself.
Mind you, all of this is a work in progress. Even though I have moved five times in the last sixteen years, I still have way too many boxes of stuff I will likely never use again.
I am still working at paring down how much I bring into the house, which is a challenge due to my habit of stocking up when things are on sale. I’ve learned that hard way that it doesn’t always make economic sense to buy boatloads of staples if I can’t use them up before they goes bad even when if it was a killer deal. I once bought ten jars of something (salad dressing? Mayo?); I honestly can’t remember anything but the shame I felt when I finally tossed them.
I’m trying to waste less.
I’m trying not to cook more than we will eat in one sitting, but I am still honing that skill. I am not great at estimating how much that is and I feel guilty about the amount of food I throw out. Sometimes I find myself wondering if I should drive a couple miles down the road and find some hungry homeless person. I contemplate whether they would be grateful or suspicion. I haven’t tried it yet so I don’t know the answer.
All I really know is that I like the cleared space. I find myself wanting to keep the house cleaner. I find myself grateful for the emptiness. I like the lack of demands. I like the lack of guilt. I don’t have to kid myself into thinking I’m ever going to read that book that I’ve been hauling around for twenty-plus years. I’m not going to lose fifty pounds and suddenly fit into that dress. I’m not going to do the hypnotherapy home study course I signed up for in my thirties. I can let it all go. I don’t have to feel bad about any of it.
“There is no amount of self-improvement that can make up for a lack of self-acceptance.” – Dr. Robert Holden
I am no longer willing to treat myself as if there is something wrong with me as I am. In this clear space, I am enough. I have enough. I have breathing room.
Namaste, my friends, Namaste.