Most of the body’s problems are from either not getting what is needed or not eliminating what is not needed. Rich Baumann
Rich has a point there. It’s one we overlook often in our quest for a cure. What harms us is not just the lack of necessities, but the determined retention of what we cannot use. It builds up, takes over, and subverts processes that are necessary to our continued functioning.
My house is a perfect example. I’ve been working through it, one room or trouble spot at a time, but we are still the possessors of impressive amounts of Stuff. We wouldn’t win prizes, I know, having seen ads for the decluttering and unburying-the-house shows on HGTV. Still, I feel like the Little Mermaid sometimes, staring bemusedly at an object and singing, “It’s a Whatsit!” as I try to walk my mind back to the time I knew what my Whatsit was and what it was for.
It’s working slowly, but well. Just as the clutter gurus say, less can be more, and fewer Whatsits in my life means more room, less cleaning. It also means I can find the Real and Useful Stuff more easily.
I understand the minimalist movement. It forms part of the draw of tiny houses for me – that look of space, balanced with useful items and a few decorative pieces, the unloading of that which does not function in the Now.
I am owned by this piece of land and the family we continue to build. Living in the middle of nowhere demands tools as well as skills, supplies as well as an ability to smile at change. The Stuff is easier to get, and it accretes. As skills increase, the knowledge of what to retain changes and expands. Contraction begins. It’s a lot like minimalism.
I believe minimalism is great for the young, like an advanced form of Scouting or Little League, or in this modified version for those of us in ‘contraction’. For those who partake in it, rewards are real and lifelong. How many of us know how many shirts we have, or how many we need? Minimalist thinking says ‘one to wash, one to wear, one for good, one for spare’. I have more than that, for different weights and seasons, even, and am arguably no happier for the possession thereof. Conscious decision about my possessions can’t hurt, though, and not replacing is one way of weeding out Stuff.
Until I started contraction, I walked around too many things. I started removing non-functioning objects, followed by the obvious: extra coat hangers, stashes of recycling, duplicates. Then I’ve tried to identify my most used items and how much space they deserve in my life. My closet is finite. Perhaps the number of items in it should be, too. And so with the pots and pans, the towels, the storage containers. I am liberating more and more things to find a home that needs them – and removing them from my care or concern.
This mindset is giving me the freedom to use my brain and my space for more important things: the Real Stuff. It’s wonderful to not only have, but be able to find the starting pots for seeds and the extra straw for Dad’s water bottle. There is room on the counter for the dish drainer and on the wood stove for the teakettles. Releasing extras means paying better attention to the Stuff that remains, and the kind of routine care that results in better long-term conditions.
In real terms, this divesting gives me a larger no-worry space in my brain, which in turn allows more room for meditation and writing.
Simplifying the Stuff led, too, to simplifying my schedule. With so few things now that I’m ‘retired’, how can it be difficult? I used the steps on my daily and weekly routines that I used on other Stuff: get rid of the deadwood, identify what is really important, eliminate duplication and waste. That, too, has led to less to remember, less unprofitable demand. It releases me to observe the Now instead of fretting about what I should have done or about what I need to do to accomplish the next task.
By nature I am not a minimalist, although the draw of a convent cell where there was nothing to do but think had immense appeal at one point. There is still a lot of Stuff in my life. I’m learning how to not let it overwhelm me, either in the physical or mental world. In a nutshell, when faced with something that is Stuff you feel may not belong in your world any more, ask:
- Is it garbage? Does it work for the purpose you intended? Is the purpose itself still valid in your life?
- Is it redundant? Do you already have a Whatsit in each room?
- How much aggravation is it worth? Do a cost / benefit ratio. You may find that you never bake and oven cleaning is your worst nightmare. Obviously, you should consider a toaster or a microwave instead.
- Where does it go? All things should have a home, even toasters. No home = move it along.
- Do you really want it? Flip a coin. The answer will tell you how you feel about it, and if you’re absolutely neutral, get rid of it.
- Is this a piece that enhances your world? Superfluities adorn and enrich our lives to a point. If you don’t love it, let it go. If you do, hold on.
Two more for general mindset:
- Quantify everything. How much of this do you need? How many of those? Inventory bit by bit to give yourself an overview, a chance to cull at a primary level, and the opportunity to identify any lack in your needed supplies.
- Think long-term for replacement items. We’re looking at a lifetime water purifier instead of a pitcher system. It’s pricey, but should last for years at a much lower plastic usage and average use cost. And don’t let it in if it’s just Stuff.
Your mileage no doubt varies. This path has brought me more space and time. It has eased my mind. May it be so for you – and a great trip for us all!
TAKE IT BACK by Kathryn W Morski
Mama hanging laundry in the wind and sunshine.
Daddy built a barn and a house in a tree.
Kids playing baseball, or reading, or fishing –
That’s the way I always thought it would be.
Traded in the clothesline for electric drier.
Traded in the Chevy for a brand new van.
Traded for an uptown life and a paycheck.
Going so much faster than we think we can!
Take it back! Take it back! Take it back a step.
You might not fall, but you’re bound to slip.
Take it back!
Slow it down!
Take it back!
We used to move to a daily rhythm –
only so much that a body can do –
Working from sunrise until sundown.
Electric means you can work all night, too;
Working so the kids can learn French and music;
working for the country and the cause and the store;
Working to keep our heads above water;
working till we just can work no more!
Take it back…
Remember when summer meant more than day care,
Time spent driving from the lessons to the game?
Remember those golden days we shared?
Quality time just doesn’t feel the same!
Chasing after something that you never question
leads you to some places you don’t want to go.
There’s not much difference in the final outcome
between “Follow the flock” and “Go with the flow”.
He who dies with the most, best playthings
still is dead in the longer view.
If you’re tired of trading your life time for money,
you can trade back, keep some time for you!
Take it back…