Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Old Habits Die Hard and Slowly

Letting go of most of my things was difficult. It took over three years from the time I decided to start paring down to get to a place where I was satisfied with the amount of stuff I owned.

And I thought I was at the end of my journey. I thought I'd reached this place of awareness that would prevent me from accumulating stuff. But I was wrong.

After the long haul across the country we found a loft/studio apartment that we could call our temporary home. It wasn't huge, but seemed like the perfect size for two people and two small cats. And as we didn't have a ton of stuff it felt really spacious.

But sleeping on an air mattress wasn't a permanent solution. So we needed a bed. And something to lift us up a little from the floor. So we needed a bed frame. And we needed a couch to sit on to watch the television we had.

Then we needed some furniture for the cats - it was only fair that they had comfortable places to sit, not just us.

And we needed a side chair. And another desk (we had brought one). And then another one to replace the one we brought so that it would match. And some desk chairs. And a laundry cart. And a shoe rack. And some bathroom accessories. And some kitchen supplies. And a place to hold my DVD collection. And a dresser. And... And... And... And... And....

And while our space never got so crowded we couldn't live comfortably, we had accumulated more furniture and belongings than I thought we would. Because I thought that I had gotten rid of everything and didn't need much else. I thought that I wouldn't have to replace the dresser we let go of or the bookcases we didn't bring. I thought that living with less was where we were headed.

I had no clue that it was only temporary and that I would replace almost everything I'd given away or donated and then proceed to buy even more.

Because new movies were released that I just had to have. And new books were released that I just had to read and own and keep. And the next video game system was releasing. And the sunglasses I owned weren't as chic as they once were. And why just have one pair. And the duvet I had wasn't as fancy as the one I wanted. And how can I just have one duvet. And so on... and so on... and so on....

Of course we moved again a year later into a new space. And some of the things we bought weren't useful in that new space. And some of those things we bought weren't as nice or wouldn't look as nice as they could or should. And so we replaced those things with new things that looked better. And we acquired new things to fill that slightly larger space.

And we bought more games and movies and music. And we bought more storage solutions for said games and movies and music. And we bought new furniture to house those stored games and movies and music. And we bought a nicer bed. And we bought another TV. And we got new clothes. And I got new fashion accessories.

And we got patio furniture for a balcony we never went out on. And we got electronics that were the latest and greatest. And we got new linens. And we got new kitchen gadgets and dishes. And we got more artwork.

But, hey, we also got rid of....

We got rid of some of those dishes we brought with us because I was so sure that they were the perfect dishes and I couldn't live without them. And we got rid of some of those movies and tv shows because why hold onto the DVDs when you could get them on iTunes. And we got rid of some of those All-Clad pans because Le Creuset in the color of the moment was so much better.

We filled up all those empty corners and cupboards. We created a space that looked great, but crowded, and always felt like it was missing something. It wasn't perfect.

And then we moved. And we got rid of some more things in anticipation of that move because our new space couldn't handle the size of sofa we had. And so we got a new one. And it couldn't fit the bench at the foot of the bed. And our high-end vacuum wouldn't work on the type of flooring at the new space. And my desk wouldn't fit as the space came with one built in.

Of course with the new space we needed...

We needed bikes, because it was that type of neighborhood. And we had a bigger balcony so we needed bigger furniture to be comfortable in. And we needed additional bathroom supplies because we now had an extra half bath. And we needed... and we needed... and we needed.

Then we moved again. And again. And again. And again.

For each of our moves we've never used movers. We've cleaned and boxed and carted everything we owned to each new space. So I was always very aware of just how many things I owned, how much of a burden it was to move these things to each new space, how easily they could get damaged, how often they didn't fit the next place, how a pest-filled building (silverfish this time) could make you purge almost every piece of furniture, every electronic device, every piece of paper, every book you own.

Fortunately at some point over the years I'd learned to keep my most valuable items wrapped in movers plastic, then placed in plastic bins, and then wrapped those bins in plastic so that everything would be sufficiently cocooned - though it never seemed to keep me from worrying about the stuff. And it's not like I ever get to enjoy a trip down memory lane as everything contained in those bins is so tightly secured it's unreachable. But it's still mine, mine, all mine. Lucky me.

Another loss a few years back reminded me just how "not home" a space with stuff is. Though that time it didn't motivate me to change my behavior in quite the same way. It made me want to minimize but at the same time it made me want new. Not new experiences. But new things. I think I believed, at that time, that the new things would somehow make me happy.

And while I never completely went back to my old ways of accumulating without thought, my old habits hadn't really died either. I made smarter purchasing choices, but I was still purchasing things I didn't necessarily need. I was still confusing need and want.

I kept making lists of things I needed, things that would make everything perfect. I still thought that if I just had that one next thing I'd be done. But then there was that other next thing. And so that binge-purge cycle would resume. "Lather, rinse, repeat" as my guy would say. Often.

It was only this summer, after two rather significant setbacks and losses, that I finally had to say enough is enough. Because while I will always treasure some of my things, and will always like nice things, it is not worth spending the time worrying about them or how they look or how they make me feel in the moment.

I should not spend my energies caring about things - it's not like they care about me. It's not like my time on this planet is unlimited - so why spend so much time thinking about, acquiring, maintaining things. It's not like I have unlimited resources - I only make a certain amount of money that is meant to cover my living expenses, allow me to have some experiences that are of value, take care of my little cat, and save for a time when I won't have money coming in.

And it's not like I need very many things to exist day-to-day that I don't already have.

So it is now the perfect time to embark upon this journey toward living a simpler life. While the people and beings I care about are still in my life. While I still have the ability to pursue those things that bring me real joy and give me life experiences.

While there are still enough years ahead of me that at the end of my life I can honestly say that I didn't spend half my life worrying about trivial matters.

To be continued...

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