a girl and her boy

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The Battle Against "Stuff"

Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication. Leonardo da Vinci.

One of my favorite blogs, Zen Habits, had the following to say on simplicity:

A simple life has a different meaning and a different value for every person. For me, it means eliminating all but the essential, eschewing chaos for peace, and spending your time doing what’s important to you.

It means getting rid of many of the things you do so you can spend time with people you love and do the things you love. It means getting rid of the clutter so you are left with only that which gives you value.

However, getting to simplicity isn’t always a simple process. It’s a journey, not a destination, and it can often be a journey of two steps forward, and one backward.

Have you paid much attention to all the little things in your life? As I have sorted through drawers and packed stuff away bit by bit, I’ve realized how much I have and wondered where it all came from. I am a month away from a full year in my present home and somehow, though I was thorough when packing a year ago, I still managed to keep a lot of stuff that I just don’t need.

I’ve issued a challenge to myself to reduce my physical objects down to as few as possible. There’s something lovely and inspiring about having few possessions. I’ll never manage it on the book front, but I want to see what I can manage as far as my other possessions.

Why do we (collectively) gather so many possessions unto ourselves? I know some of the historical aspects, and I can conjecture some of the psychological, but why, really?

My grandmother was a collector. She used to own a large house in western Maine and lived there alone. My cousin Michelle and I used to blaze trails through the mountains of stuff just to walk from one room to another. Photo journals, coin rolls, clothes, and books used to balance precariously in heaps. I would spend whole days when visiting just sorting through a single pile and I felt like Charles Darwin charting and categorizing all the different objects. And it wasn’t just Nonnie.My former mother-in-law was a kindred soul in the race to have as many objects in her home as possible. And my mother.

It has always been my ardent goal to live simply. And life is pretty simple. I just have too much stuff.

So, my plan is to put every object in my possession through a stringent line of questioning:  Why do I have this? What purpose does it serve in my life? When did I last use it? And if I don’t have a good answer, a compelling answer, to each of those questions, I’m going to put it in a box and walk it next door to the Salvation Army.

I hope all is well with you. Much love. Black Sheep.


6 responses to “The Battle Against "Stuff"

  1. Michelle Glauser June 15, 2010 at 12:14 pm

    I’ve often felt the need to limit my physical possessions. When I’m stressed, I start throwing things away. The problem now is that I’m down to the bare bones and I still want to keep throwing away, but these are actually things I need. I wish there was some easier way to get belongings around. Sending these boxes across the world is pricey . . .

    • Black Sheep June 20, 2010 at 5:29 pm

      Hi, Michelle. I hadn’t even thought of having possessions internationally! Hauling things from state to state was enough of a challenge. How *do* you manage?

      My goal isn’t to get rid of *everything*, my goal is to get rid the things I don’t use, or have lost their purpose, or hold memories I do not wish to keep. Also, I tend to be a collector and have variations on every single item I own. That’s my focus: have one or two of each type of item (who really needs 20 “to do” list pads?).

  2. LittleWit June 16, 2010 at 8:16 am

    Getting down the essentials is an admirable goal. I find it hard though because I always seem to have a need for something shortly after it leaves my home. A lot of time then when I am spring cleaning I will make a pile and put it off to the side, if I don’t return to the pile looking for those items in a given amount of time then I can send them off to a new home.

    • Black Sheep June 20, 2010 at 5:30 pm

      Yep. =) That’s pretty much what I do. However, when I’m going through the stuff initially, if I can’t even remember the last time I knew the item was in my possession, or had thought of it, I put it in the donate box.

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