Wednesday, October 14, 2009

"Simplify, simplify."

In Walden, Thoreau shares an episode he has with three rocks. He explains that he had collected three pieces of limestone and placed them decoratively on his desk, but later "was much terrified to find that they required to be dusted daily." At this discovery, rather than allow the rocks to begin to own him by requiring his time, energy and space, good ol' H.D. tossed them out the window.

I have heard tell of a television show on A&E called Hoarders. I have seen bits and pieces of the show, but cannot bring myself to watch an entire episode for one simple reason--it hits too close to home. Granted, I know that, primarily, people hoard due to mental illness, which, thankfully, I do not have. However, I think many Americans can recognize themselves in, or at least sympathize with, the compulsions shown on Hoarders. Their lives have slowly slipped away as piles and piles of STUFF have steadily been suffocating their freedom. They are oppressed by their possessions. The pursuit of STUFF has turned on them until they have become powerless to overcome the compulsion to hang onto things of nothing more than perceived value. Do we not all sometimes feel a bit burdened by the weight of our possessions and the cost it is to own them?

Do not suppose I am a hoarder. But do not suppose I am so very far off. After all, what is the difference between those who hoard, and those who live amongst an acceptable amount of clutter? It is often as simple as the passage of time and the struggles of life--loss of a loved one, or a job; a bout with depression; loneliness; retirement; empty nest syndrome; the list goes on. I think (wishful thinking, perhaps?) that there are many Americans out there like me, who live on the brink--who live just one disaster away from handing their complete happiness over to their possessions, from letting STUFF take over their lives. After all, as Americans, we have had the "value" of consumerism etched into our minds since birth. In America, consumerism and patriotism stroll down the lane of our ideals hand in hand.

In the spirit of H.D., this post will serve as the first of what I hope will be many that will chronicle the metaphorical hunks of limestone of which we are ridding ourselves. The gross excess you will find in these posts may horrify you. Or perhaps, they will hit a little close to home. I think perhaps you will be shocked by what you will see. But I also think for some, you may recognize a bit of yourself. "Simplify, simplify," is my new motto and will be used to signify my attempts to purge the STUFF that has been pushing in the boundaries of my freedom.

I have been conspicuously absent from the blog. I've been very busy. You see, in an effort to "simplify, simplify" we have been preparing for the yard sale of the century. Originally, the concept was that we would have plenty of time to purge the house, as well as the storage unit, to prepare for the sale. This proved entirely impossible, and we succeeded only in purging the storage unit. Please keep in mind that the storage unit contains only things that have NEVER been used in our small home. In this area were items that we either had no place for when we moved to Arizona, or are things which we have accumulated over the years here and never had an opportunity to even use. We spent a great deal of time sorting items, and eventually filled 3 truckloads and an entire 5 foot by 10 foot trailer completely full. Of our stuff. That hadn't been used in years, if at all. There was no one to blame for the orgy of consumerism laid out before us as we readied for our yard sale. No one but us to point a finger at when all the items lay out on display.

Below, you will find a couple pictures of the carnage, which was difficult to photograph accurately on account of its sheer volume (and yes, every item you see belonged to us, and had been sitting unused while we continued to fill our home with more useless things):

Amazingly, we managed to let many items go. Most remarkably, my husband set all his tools free--which had been trapped, useless, in a storage facility since our move. I managed to rid ourselves of a ridiculous amount of Christmas decorations, baby items, household items and a few sentimental things, which, when scrutinized under my new motto, I realized weren't sentimental at all. It was all just STUFF. The most difficult task, in spite of the hours and hours of heavy lifting and organizing and sitting in the sun, was actually just the mental disconnect from our belongings; the hardest part was deciding to let things go and not turn back.

And I must add, as we pulled away from the storage unit with an enormous load of junk, aside from the obvious horror at what we had amassed, there was the unmistakable feel of a tremendous burden being lifted from off our shoulders. It felt good to be liberated from all these things and to know that it was just the beginning. I wish to share that liberation with you, reader (if there be any), so a challenge: Find something and set yourself free from it. Look around you and see the "limestones" in your home that do nothing more than drain your resources and toss something out the window--give it to a neighbor, donate it, sell it, recycle it, or just put it in the garbage. There...doesn't that feel better? (Be sure to leave a comment sharing what you tossed!)


  1. We had a huge yard sale a few months ago and it felt so great to get rid of the stuff....I don't even remember what all the stuff was now.

    You've inspired me to go through all of my old magazines and just throw them all out. I'm sure I saved them all because they have pictures of more stuff I think I should buy. All going in the recycling bin today.

  2. I just started on a purging of my stuff as well.
    It has created a feeling of freedom in me that I have never before felt.

    I started by giving away all my 'R' rated dvds, and gathering all my old magazines to donate to my library. It's only the beginning for me... I love that 'Story of Stuff' video you posted, that has been a motivator for me.
    Though. it seems I need to get off my bum and read Walden.


I LOVE comments. I LIVE for comments.
You can leave one here!