Thursday, 10 November 2011

Too much........everything

Do you know how I feel that my days are spent? Yes, I do cook, clean, care for children, write, knit, grow things, exercise, socialise and so much else, but do you know what really seems to dominate each and every day? Do you know what fills in all those moments when I'd really love to be doing something creative, something loving, something meditative?

Sorting, shifting, rationalising STUFF.

And I'm sick to death of it, absolutely had enough. It has been like this for as long as I can remember (apart from those careless light, and airy days on a Corsican goat farm, or travelling round the west coast of Canada with just a back pack, or any of those deliciously unencumbered adventures of my pre children days.)
My days are simply clogged up, like festering stagnant pools, with bits of God knows what, boxes of 'I really don't care what happens to this,' bags of things that I can't just take to the charity shop because they need to be sorted first. Aargh! They sit in the hallway, these boxes and bits, these bags, squat and sullen like a family of messy trolls, tripping me up as I walk by with their warty old toes. And I resent every minute I have to spend over them; I fume and cuss over the endless trails of ephemera, toys, paperwork, THINGS, which float like a miasma all over the house. Which I must sort, tidy and bring to order, again and again and again.
I'm sure you know what I mean.

I'm sure you know what I mean because I think it's the same for many of us over privileged members of western civilisation, to have replaced lives of basic necessities with lives which are cluttered and overflowing with a thousand little pieces of uselessness.
Ah! That's where it gets difficult, because actually, when you start examining the 'stuff' it can get pretty interesting...hmm remember Aunty Jean gave you that little pink box with the necklace that broke, maybe we'll mend it, Aunty Jean would be upset if we...oh! remember when you used to love this toy elephant, and I'd forgotten I had this....and so the pile of Stuff to Sort Later starts to grow.

So what's going on? We live busy hurtling 100 mile an hour lives, with twenty new things on our to do lists every day, our minds buzzing with the intrusion of phones, ipods, laptops, radios, tv's, new messages, new articles, books.....and our homes are groaning with the presence of things that we think we need, but can't cope with.
Because we really can't.

It's driving us all crazy.

It's driving some of us crazy because we can't have it and we think we need it, and its driving the other half of us crazy because we have it and we have to spend so much of our lives tending it, polishing it tidying it, worrying about it getting stolen, fretting about what happens to it when we die.
Do you know what?
It doesn't matter what happens to it, because when we die all we take with us are our beautiful spirits, and we leave all the tat and rubbish behind. So why don't  we spend more time adding lustre and beauty to those instead? Here's some ideas:
  • We could stop buying things we don't need.  You know what I mean, I don't mean sit in a bare room eating just potatoes, (although right now that sounds pretty appealing) I mean stop before you get your wallet out, and pause...will I be using this in 6 months time? Does it serve a I NEED it? You've probably already got three at home, check first.
  • Stop doing, and just be, at least once a day, plant your feet on the ground and feel part of this earth, remember your body, wriggle your toes and remember they're there. We're all beautiful and shining inside, we don't need all the material crap to hold us up. Feel the beauty, of yourself and the world.
  • Yes, I'm coming to get rid of the rubbish, but here's the bit I find hard. Decluttering is very fashionable and feels good, but don't start buying again to fill in the lovely serene spaces. Things have a very sly habit of creeping in insidiously, and all those charity shops make it so easy to pick up a bargain, and quickly offload another brimming sackful. They actually encourage us to see objects as readily and easily disposable, with a tick in the box for helping charity a free ticket to buy more. DON'T!
  • Spend the time you have saved by minimizing your belongings on reconnecting with yourself,  Find out what you're really like, journal, draw or meditate and just feel what it is to be you.Be still and breathe past where you usually would. I find it so hard to do this, surely it's wasting time, couldn't I be doing something more productive? Oh! productive, begone! Does the oak tree outside my window worry about being productive, or the squirrel scurrying past?
  • Reconnect with your family and friends. Sometimes I realise that a whole morning has been spent tidying and I have been pushing my kids aside to do it, or I turn down a lunch invitation because it just seems too much. Connection with others nourishes us deep within, unlike the quick shallow fix of a shopping trip.
  • Reconnect with nature. Now I realise that not everyone lives in a wood, so it's so much harder for some to do this. But try! Find a tree, a patch of wasteland, watch a sparrow hop on the roof, smile at a dandelion pushing it's way through the cracks in the pavement. We're all together, we're all unique important parts of our planet, but material possessions and concerns send us into a sleepwalk through life. We are dulled and sedated by the things we see in the shops and want, and buy. They literally make a barrier between us and our natural environment. If you can, walk, (don't take any stuff, well maybe a spare nappy for your baby if you must!)  in the mountains, walk by the sea, walk in the woods, walk in the park, feel the bark of a tree, the raindrops on your cheek, the sea foam around your toes. That's what being alive is about!

We are not separate we are all connected.

I have just moved out of a very small space and will soon be moving back into another equally compact dwelling. It asonishes me how much stuff I have accumulated since my last move, and we now I have stacks of boxes sitting mutely in storage, all waiting to draw me in when I go and see them. I am SO DETERMINED to make new start and never accumulate again. Does that sound rash? Impossible? Unrealistic?
It's my challenge for the next year when we move to our new woodland dwelling, I am so heartily fed up of frittering away beautiful clear hours, days and weeks with sifting and shifting.

I don't want to die having only the shackles of my possessions around my neck like a noose. I want to fly free like a bird, to see clearly the shafts of  golden sunlight, to hear the murmuring of my ancestors, to feel the rushing wind on my cheek, to love and be loved. What more is there?

Afterword: A few moments after I took the photo of Leo at the top of this post this morning, he crouched down in the grass, as I was rushing along, and said, with a dreamy look in his eye.
'Mummy stop, I just want to look at the dew drops sparkling in the sun.'
And I did. And it was lovely.


    1. You are so prolific, I can barely keep up with your blog!

      I was thinking of Leo and his dewdrops sparkling in the sun and about the amazing walk I had a few mornings past - snow on the ground, trees covered in thick hoarfrost, brilliant white spruce trees silhouetted against a deep blue sky, everything sparkling and cedar waxwings (birds I've never seen here before) picking away at bright red mountain ash berries. These are the moments that we always remember and that take our breath away but they are transient and fleeting and there is always a touch of sadness that accompanies the joy, knowing the moment will never be experienced again. I wonder it that accounts for some of our obsession with stuff - it counteracts the existential problem that is inherent in the appreciation of dew drops and sparkling, snow-covered woods. We like stuff because of its permanence. We can put it in a box, put it in storage . . . stuff remains constant for us and helps buffer all the losses we must experience in life . . . and when you love the world and are open to its beauty there are so many losses to endure. I'm just thinking, there has to be a pretty deep rooted reason why we cling and accumulate the way we do because our stuff really is an imprisoning burden that drags us down and wastes our time.

      One of my best friends recently got laid off. Instead of fretting over finding a new job so she could earn more to accumulate more, she saw it as an opportunity for a fresh start. She gave away almost EVERYTHING she owned except what she could fit in her small car. She just told everyone she knew to come to her place and take what they wanted. Then, when her home was empty, she got rid of that too! When she visited after the big purge she seemed lighter, happier and more herself than I've ever known her to be, and I've known her since childhood. I consider her a very inspiring example.

      Oh, and thanks for reminding me about the word "ephemera." It's a good one.

    2. Hello, I enjoyed this post, and it reminded me of my Grandma Rose and her sister my Great Aunty Ruby. A sisters they had pretty much the same pre-war childhood and then married and started families of their own during the austere war years. Skipping forward to later life, Grandma Rose and Aunty Ruby had very different viewpoints on what matters in life. Aunty Ruby bought 'stuff' to make herself happy. Expensive stuff, but stuff just the same (crystal ornaments, china figure-ens, gold and silver decorations and housewares etc), and Grandma Rose (and my Grandad), spent their money on travel. When they had worked long full lives and their children had children of their own, my grandparents embarked on some amazing adventures, Spain, France, Germany, Venice, Austria, New Orleans, Hawaii, San Fransisco, New York, Singapore and that's only some of them, I would need their passports to remember them all. I used to spend hours and hours with them looking at photo's and hearing tales of their travel, and I loved it. I think it was their enthusiasm for the places they had been that made them all the more interesting to me. Aunt Ruby and Grandma Rose (and Grandad) have passed on now, and while I carry and cherish the memories of those story telling days with me, I know that Aunt Ruby's belongings were sold off by her daughter. Grandma Rose didn't own any stuff worth selling, but I consider myself rich in other ways.

    3. Thankyou so much Laurel and Val for your beautiful stories, I loved to read about your Aunty and Grandma Val, such teaching for you from your elders. Grandma Rose sounds very special..and wise!
      Laurel, yes I agree we must have a reason to gather and accumulate, I've been trying to work that one out too. I think part of it is to fil the void left from our disconnection with nature and with each other, the problem is, that our retail therapy sessions and hoarding only serves to disconnect us further, and the vicious circle continues. Plus we are coerced and lured at every corner to buy, buy, buy it takes a good deal of strength and grounding to resist.

    4. Great post, Henrietta. It is so easy to become overwhelmed by STUFF! I keep my house as clear as I can and yet papers get stuffed through the letterbox by the postman and then they end up on the table, along with the other things in the 'to do' pile which never gets done. And then there is work - work takes over my life and away from my family. The whole world is crazy! I wish it were simpler.

    5. ah, yes! thank you for the perfect post...


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