Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Stuff of Life

I've officially dived head-first into a long-held dream.  It's awesome and terrifying and exciting and satisfying.  But like most dreams that finally come true, now that I'm here I find myself looking around and thinking "Holy cow.  Now what?"

For most people moving from a full time to a part time job might not be such a big deal, or it might be a move in the wrong direction.  For me, and for my family, it's a dream-come-true.  This isn't a story about why we've made this change; I'm really tired of that story and I'm ready to start a new one.  Thing is, I'm not sure what the next one is about just yet.  I know it's about my family, and the time I want to spend with them and the ways I want to care for them.  And I know it's about me, too -- but that's the stumbler.

What I'm feeling, deep in my bones, is that before I can move forward I've got to get a lot of stuff out of the way.  And I mean that literally:  I am drowning in stuff.  Right about now someone on Facebook would call this a First World Problem and they'd be right.  I hate to complain about being blessed with too much, but here I am.  I'm surrounded by things that require my time and energy to handle.  To figure out where it all goes, keep it all clean and in good repair, remember that it's there when I need it.  Honestly, I don't want the next chapter to be about stuff-maintenance.

The idea of purging, really purging the ish in my life is so appealing.  A calm environment that has what we truly need, and little more, seems like a blank canvas to me.  More time to do what we want to do, less time corralling The Stuff.  More space to live and play, less of The Stuff to argue about.  More resources to spend on what matters, less time worrying about how to pay for all The Stuff.  Freedom, really -- it feels a lot like freedom.

And that brings me right back to this dream which, at the end of the day, was all about freedom for me. My work was anything but freeing, but it would be foolish of me to replace a good-paying (but stifling) job for an unpaying (and stifling) life.  I've got to be free of the stuff that's in my way if I'm really going to be free.  But here are my obstacles:

  • I struggle with the guilt of poor decisions.  It's hard to give away a perfectly good (fill in the blank) that I've hardly, if ever, used without kicking myself for wasting the money in the first place.
  • I struggle with placing monetary values on things.  I wonder if what I'm about to donate is actually worth something, and with our new budget...  well, we could certainly use whatever money we might get for it.
  • I struggle with the people who live with me.  I love them, and I don't expect them to feel the same way I do about ridding ourselves of stuff.  At the same time, it's hard to swim upstream.  
  • I struggle with emotional attachments.  This is becoming less of a problem for me actually, but it's still an issue with everyone in the house -- especially the six year old, who somehow finds deep and binding ties to anything and everything she has ever touched.
  • I struggle with what-if syndrome.  As I'm trying to think more frugally, I always wonder "what if we will need this next week/spring/year?"  I worry that I'm going to part with something I might need, someday...  even though I clearly haven't needed it up to this point.  (And boy do I come by this honestly, as I was raised by parents who felt the effects of the Depression and were very slow to part with anything, even an empty cardboard box, because they might need it...  someday.)
I'm convinced that pruning away the excess is something that needs to happen.  I'm even looking forward to it, despite the pain of the process, because I just have this feeling that the rest of the story lies somewhere on the other side.  The purging is the preface.  Can't wait for Chapter 1.


shouldhavezagged said...

This post is wonderfully relevant to me as I am in the midst of getting rid of STUFF too. Thank you for sharing your struggles. I struggle with many of the same issues.

If I may, some unsolicited advice: Let go. It feels so hard to do but, once you've embraced it, is so freeing. Really.

Give your useful STUFF to someone who might need it—friends, family, strangers—or donate it to charity and don't look back. If you haven't used/needed it yet/recently then chances are you won't. I haven't once thought, "I wish I didn't get rid of that [thing]," and I remember that every time I'm worried about giving something away. Also, I remind myself that, should a time come when I need the [thing] I kept just in case, I would never have found it anyway or even remembered that I had it. Plus, if push comes to shove, constraints drive creativity and resourcefulness.

Beating myself up over the money I spent on the [thing] in the first place is a past-time that I have finally abandoned. I think about it, and think about it some more, and then I turn it into a lesson to not buy things unless I have an immediate need for them + place to store them. Or, if the expensive item was something that I did need at one point, then I come to terms with the fact that it is no longer useful and having useless things around is not worth the energy.

As far as your daughter, I've heard of a few things that might work. Get rid of old toys & clothes when she's not looking. Ask her to part with something every time a new item comes into her possession, and explain that what she's getting rid of will go to a child who isn't as fortunate. Try that trick where you put everything away for a certain amount of time and, unless she specifically requests it during that time, it's given away. In any case, your willingness to purge your own things will set a good example through real actions.

Best of luck.

Ket said...

Thanks Sascha. I think there are a lot of us out there now that are finally grasping the fact that less really is more, pardon the overused platitude.

I have realized that some of Sara's attachment to stuff is partly my fault, and I'm going to have to work hard to get her to "unlearn" that way of thinking. Still, better now than when she is 16, or 26 or 46 or 66. I want to set her up to appreciate what she has, take good care of it, and be free to share generously with others. I really hope I can teach her how valuable THAT kind of life is -- much more valuable than "stuff."

Good luck to you to as you take on YOUR stuff!