Okay, so I suck at blogging. I’ve fallen despicably short of my 2014 writing goals and I apologize. (Again.)
On the upside, I’m kickin’ the butt out of this challenge!
Remember when I talked about losing excess fat stores? I was referring, of course, to the stores of stuff in my house (not my tush). Well, let me tell you: my house’s diet would put the South Atkins Paleo Green-Sludge Master Beach Cleanse to shame. If getting rid of unwanted clutter was a tenth as appealing to our society as obsessing over the desire to look like half-starved, butt-less movie stars, I could write a book and make millions. Because that’s what I care about. Right.
Anyway, I truly wish I had weighed the pounds of stuff I’ve shed from my house in the last 5 months. Withal, the more I get rid of, the less I want to own. Unlike an obsessed dieter teetering towards anorexia, however, I’m pretty certain this new obsession will not damage my–or my family’s–health. Pretty sure we’ll be just fine. (I intend no disrespect to, nor do I make light of the real and awful plight of anorexia. Quite the contrary: I wish to point out that our society’s multi-million dollar obsession with dieting and body image can cause great harm, whereas, wannabe minimalists–though sometimes nutty and worthy of absurd reality television–are rarely at risk of dying.)
I used to think I wasn’t a materialistic person. I was wrong. Try as I might to pretend I wasn’t stuff-oriented, that oh-so-human desire for novelty often resulted in a desire for a new thing–a new article of clothing (for myself or for the kids), a new eco-friendly lunch bag, a new pair of funky, locally made earrings … heck, even a new dishcloth would do. Often, I satisfied this desire by buying something used or even by swapping something with a friend. This is great, but it still means relying on a material object to satisfy an arguably non-material need. That is materialistic. I still have a long way to go if I’m going to avoid being that.
But I’ve since discovered something awesome. Recently, I rid my kitchen of a whack of under-used dishes and in so doing was able to reorganized my excessively-used mason jars. New shoes? Forget it. New cupboard bliss? Yes. My desire for novelty in my everyday surroundings is–for now–being fulfilled by a couple shelves of OCD approved jar placement. I did the same with my linen/sweater chest, the kids’ dresser, my closet, the basement, the sun room … novelty, everywhere novelty! And everywhere, something to get rid of. And everywhere, a new sense of freedom.
I’ve always been happy with what I own, but I confess that I’ve always had a “list.” That annoying mental list that lurks at the back of your brain, gnaws on your self-esteem, feeds off of every consumerist attack that pounces from the moment you engage with the world; that list that forever holds just one more thing necessary for making your wardrobe/kitchen/bathroom/bicycle/car/sporting gear/gadget collection/ … life complete–do you know that list?
At the beginning of 2014 there were a few items on my list. I wanted a new-to-me rug for the living room, and, you know those baggy pants that gather tightly at the ankle and usually have some kind of funky high waist? Yeah. I wanted a pair of those. I figured I still would come January, 2015, and that I would then fill-in those missing pieces of my life, but already, the list is gone. I wouldn’t want the pants even if they were randomly dropped on my doorstep. (So please don’t.)
While reorganizing my closet, I realised I have pants. They look plenty fine and they work plenty fine. They may not be those pants, but there will always be some style/colour/thickness/length of pant that I don’t own. At a certain point, enough is enough. I now believe I’m experiencing “enough.” Wow. How liberating.
This reminds me of a story from when my husband and I were first together. I would open the fridge to find literally nine jars of opened jam. Then, we’d be at the store and my dear man would say, “Ooo, bumbleberry jam! We don’t have any of that.” And, in the basket it would go. I laugh and I laughed at the time–in addition to regulating how many opened jars of jam were permitted in the fridge at once–but really, it is no laughing matter. It’s funny when it’s about blackcurrant-pomegranate and apricot-ginger preserves, but this perceived need for every novel flavour/model/style/version/upgrade/feature permeates all areas of consumption in our over-spent, over-worked, resource-lacking, and disaster-impending society. At some point, perhaps we could just be thankful for “strawberry” and call it a day.
I keep joking that “my spring cleaning is causing spring allergies.” I’ve become severely allergic to stuff. The thought of anything new (that can’t be eaten) entering our house drives me batty.
On the weekend, a friend whose daughter is two years older than mine arrived with boxes of hand-me-downs, and in them, Aurora pants! I cued a playlist and observed a hallway fashion show. “New” pants have been worn every day since. They are appreciated not because they are new or novel, but simply because they were needed. Thank you, Debra and Mackenzie! I can deal with that “stuff.”
A short-cut to one of my frequented subway stops passes through a mall. I used to hate the trek because of the temptation. Soon, I got over the temptation and enjoyed the trek because it made me feel impervious to pressure. Now, I’m back to dreading it because I cringe at the displays like they were windows full of spiders. Eeeee, stuff.
If someone said, “Hey, Bronwyn, I want to give you $100 and take you shopping,” I’d definitely decline. “Could we just do something instead? A concert? Dinner and a walk?”
This does, however, lead me to another confession. While I’m thrilled about my new relationship/break-up with stuff, I’ve relapsed in my commitment to eliminate spending on activities, and I’ve also purchased some alcohol–not lots, but some.
I’m not sure how I feel about this. Part of me feels weak, like a cop-out and a poor excuse for a “fasting consumer.” Another part feels justified — like it’s a return to my original goals. (See, And so, we begin!)
For some, this challenge has been equated to an exercise in frugality. I love frugality and think it is a worthy goal that boasts many personal and societal benefits (especially if choosing to be charitable with the money/time that is saved). To this end, purchasing alcohol, boat rides to Toronto Islands, trips to Niagara Falls with Great-grandma, and spending money on date nights are failures on the road to complete consumer fasting.
It would, however, be easy to spend next to nothing and still acquire a bunch of stuff. There’s thrift shopping, dollar stores galore, coupons, and good old-fashioned deals. So, what am I about? Spending as little as possible, or divorcing my need for stuff and purchasing no physical things? I’m definitely about the latter, but should I attempt to be about both simultaneously?
I’m still trying to work this out. In the meantime, a toast to strawberry jam, to “enough” pants for all my family members, to an acquired allergy to stuff, and to a confession that I’m toasting with a glass of Pinot Noir. (This one, consequently, was a party gift, but I confess nonetheless.)