I was suffocating, in clutter, in junk, in things. Slowly, I have been purging over the past two summers. My aim is to reduce the multitude of items squirreled away or scattered around my home that just suffocate me and rob me of joy. They’ve been accumulating for over 21 years now. Things I once really wanted no longer interest me and I want to be rid of them. I’ve grown wise to the dangerous dance with excess and I want out. Feeling shackled by the stuff in my life, I want to cast it off in favor of a lighter way of living. My new interest is to travel and make memories with the people in my life. The thought of shopping is not pleasant and I don’t like spending a lot of time in stores anymore. I feel it is waste of time for me and that I really don’t need anything. I want LESS and am a reformed accumulator now.
One of the places I hate most in the world is the mall. I live near a behemoth of a mall on the East Coast. It is sprawling and shiny, garishly hawking wares that nobody really needs. After being well-behaved and having a great start to the school year, my children wanted to go to the Lego store to get some mini-figurines (which they totally don’t need). They had been asking for some time and mini-figurines are small so I relented. I told them they should know how much I love them because I despise the mall. There I was, circling the sea of asphalt, looking for a parking spot on a beautiful September day that seemed much more suited for time outside than shopping. The best spot I could find was (miraculously) right near the front of a high end department store, the mention of which conjures up visions of ultra-designer labels, 28 dollar pairs of socks and an array of perfumes that cost more for a bottle than I spend in a year on all my beauty products combined. Ugh! An $85 dollar polo shirt? Really? Why?
And then, after navigating through the bright lights and shiny marble floors of this consumerist Mecca into the mall itself, I was overwrought at the sight of stores and kiosks and advertisements. Each one signaled to me that somehow I needed whatever it was selling. They didn’t realize I was wise to their schemes. Ignoring them, I darted directly to the Lego Store and set a timer on my phone, telling the kids they had 15 minutes to create their 3 Lego figurines. I enjoyed seeing them select their little heads, legs and torsos, creating individual toys they could enjoy at home. However, all the while I knew full well that within about a week, the toys would be dismembered and scattered around the house, the thrill of their creation and purchase long-forgotten.
My husband’s grandfather, who grew up in a family of sharecroppers in South Carolina, had ONE toy. It was a little metal train that was referred to as “Grandpop’s Toy”. Wow. One toy? While that may seem extreme, I wholeheartedly admit that my children have way more toys, books and games than they need or use. So this summer, I bagged up six trashbags-full of said stuff and surreptitiously carted them to Goodwill. They didn’t notice. Not even a little. The playroom is more spacious and they seem happy so no guilt here. No worries – they still have plenty to play with.
I’ve purged a lot of my own things as well and intend to purge more. I’m tired of opening cabinets and having an avalanche of plastic food container bounce down onto the counters and floor. I’m weary of my bedroom looking like a hand grenade went off, the debris consisting entirely of clothing. And yes, Mr. Earl Grey, I have reached the point where I feel like I have not only enough shoes, but maybe just a smidge too many.
Surely I am not the only person who fantasizes of downsizing and living a simpler, more spartan life. I envision a Little-House-on-the-Prairie-type cabin in Vermont with mountain views and a heavily abridged list of possessions. A rustic life…sigh. In recent years, our gift-giving has shifted from finding “the perfect thing” to give as a gift to presenting time and memories as a token of love. This takes the form of taking our loved ones out to concerts, dinner and so-forth. How many things can I conjure up to buy for people who don’t need anything? This includes my children. My husband and I haven’t exchanged gifts in about 10 or 12 years. And frankly, it’s wonderful. We make dates to go to dinner instead and both find this much more fulfilling than opening a pretty package.
Last year, Santa brought a special certificate to the kiddos. It was for a 2 night stay at a hotel near Hersheypark with a pool and a pancake machine. Basically, Kid Heaven. The park was running Christmas season hours so we were able to go for two days after Christmas. It was amazing. We made memories, ate pancakes, swam in the pool and irritated my herniated disk on the rides. Every moment of it was fantastic and won’t soon be forgotten. The certification of our, er Santa’s, success in this gift-giving is that our kiddos have been asking if he will bring that gift again this year. Yes children, yes he will. And as for the rest of you, don’t look for a big box, or a small one for that matter. You’re all getting our time or a gift that allows you to go out and enjoy time with someone you love. With the exception of a few small tokens for the children, our goal this year is to exclusively give gifts that allow the recipient to make memories and build relationships.
What I have slowly been coming to realize is that one of the great lies of the world is that in order to feel satisfied or fulfilled, you have to have nice stuff – bigger homes, newer cars, purses with designer logos and ugly-looking boots that someone should be paying the wearer to wear. These things don’t bring peace and satisfaction. Relationships with people, giving to others, peace in the family and connection with God are the components that not only endure, but fulfill. This may explain why beautiful celebrities with tons of money and impossibly picture-perfect spouses wind up in the news with any number of sad situations. Fool’s Gold is what I think it’s called.
I’ve just reached a point where I simply don’t want more stuff.
This is not to say that you can’t have nice things and truly be happy. However, is your pursuit of stuff hindering you from giving to people who may not have the basics? Does it stop you from spending time with the people you love? Do you give your time, talents and resources to make the lives of those who are in dire straits better? It’s a strange and mysterious phenomenon – when I have less and give more, I am happier. I feel fulfilled and connected to the Lord, my fellow man and my family.
My birthday is in just a few weeks. I don’t want anything. And if you feel compelled to gift me with something, give me your time. A coffee date or a meal out together sounds perfect to me. Until then, happy purging, happy giving and happy memory-making.