Monday, January 14, 2013

Stuff, and Getting Rid of It

For the past couple of years, I've completed a "Get Rid of 100 Things" challenge.  I've done this twice per year (see: semi-annual, biannual), so about four times thus far, and each time, I begin with the belief that this go-around, it will be more difficult to find 100 things to remove from my home because, you know, I've already gotten rid of 100, 200, 300 things.

Well, it isn't.  In fact, in this last go around, I stopped counting at 150.

We have a tiny house.  We have two closets, each about 3'x4'.  No kitchen closets.  No coat closets.  No storage furniture aside from our two clothes dressers, and minimal cupboard space.  We have a basement but no garage.  We're not compulsive shoppers.  But still, we accumulate stuff.  And what I have learned over the past couple of years is that hundreds of those stuffs are things we do not need.  Things I can easily part with without noticing or regretting their absence.

Have you ever thought about going around your house and counting how many things you have?  I bet, for most of us, the number would easily reach into the thousands.  How many things do you use each day?  Maybe 30 on most days, if we consider clothes, shoes, cooking utensils and recreation.

Let me say here that I'm fairly unabashed about liking stuff.  I like it extra when it makes my life a little easier or a little more luxurious.  I've got no beef with stuff.

What I do have a beef with is accumulating for the sake of accumulating, without ever slowing down to evaluate what value the things we bring into our lives and our homes carry with them.  When we have just to have, we sell out our chance to revel in moment, to practice gratitude that is felt so deeply it'll knock the breath out of us.  Though we have a split personality culture that encourages consumerism while at the same time condemning materialism, I don't believe we have to choose, and further, I don't think it's healthy to bounce aimlessly between the two.  Things can have deeper meaning when we practice intentionality in  choosing which ones we maintain in our lives.

The other day, as H was making a run to drop off some of his own things at a thrift shop, he asked if I had anything I wanted to throw in.  I grabbed a pair of tennis shoes I purchased six years ago in Spain, shoes I have vacillated over getting rid of for years.  I've purchased and tossed many pairs of shoes in the interim with no regret.  I don't tend to place great sentimentality on most things.  But still, within two minutes of offering the shoes, I withdrew them.  In response, H said, "yeah, getting rid of stuff is hard."  But in truth, it isn't.  Getting rid of things just to get rid of them is the same as buying things just to buy them, just as bingeing and purging are opposite but equal.  Releasing unnecessary clutter from our lives, whether that clutter be tangible or felt, is an intentional, thoughtful process that demands examination of why we held onto this stuff in the first place.  It demands we slow down.  It demands we root back to the essence of our being.  The essence of my being wanted to hold onto those tennis shoes, because I wore then when H came to visit me in Madrid.  Because I trekked all over that country in them.  Because they're still cute (at least as cute as tennis shoes can be) and I still hold out hope that someday I will knock some sense into my head and start wearing practical tennis shoes from time to time instead of my current foot crunching choices.  I'm sure some day I will get rid of them.  But not this year.

Getting rid of 100 things doesn't just make your house more organized or easier to clean.  It provides opportunity to ask yourself the questions, 100 times over, "who am I?" and "what kind of life do I want?"  Try it.

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