Imagine a stone, its surface worn smooth with time.
A drop of water falls on it and rolls away, taking with it a molecule or two of the stone’s surface.
A few minutes later another drop, another molecule washed away.
This keeps up for years, for eons.
Eventually, there is an indentation in the surface of the stone, a groove worn by the accumulation of the drops of water. No single drop can be held responsible for this wearing away, but it’s happened anyway.
When we talk about minimalism, or simple living, if you prefer, we tend to start with the fun bits: the massive decluttering that allows us to breathe easily and see our living spaces and our lives with fresh eyes. But if we start and stop there, it won’t be long before we have to do another massive declutter and then another and another. Each time questioning our sanity, vowing to do better and tossing away bits of ourselves.
At some point, we need to turn off the tap.
I’ve made reference to this before, but I’d like to expand on it a little bit.
I think stuff is like the water falling on the stone. Each piece of stuff you buy or receive or take gets a microscopic bit of you – your time, your attention, your care. And when it leaves your life, it takes that away with it.
Which is not an excuse for hoarding. Those bits of you have already been taken, whether the item stays in your life or not.
This is a good reason to be very careful about what you allow in to your life in the first place. I would rather be the recipient of my time and attention, my desire and passion. I’d rather keep a goodly store of that for my own adventures than to waste it on clothes or gadgets.
And yes, there are some things that give more to our lives than they take away from them. Books, maybe. A musical instrument if you’re a musician. Art supplies if you actually use them. The important thing is to figure out which those are before you let them in to your life.
What will this item require of me, in terms of time, money, energy, crushing guilt? How will I dispose of it when the time comes? Do I already have one of these in disguise? Why am I shopping now? Isn’t it nap time?
I find that if I ask enough questions, I eventually get tired of myself and move on to something else, totally forgetting about the thing I wanted to purchase.
And don’t think I’m never tempted by the shiny and the new (or in my case the old and rusty – I really do love a good patina…)
I recently read David Sedaris’ piece in the New Yorker about his Fitbit and fell hard. Especially when he went on to have a garbage truck named after him, because, honestly, who wouldn’t?
I tried to make do with the fitness app on my cell phone but I think it’s lying to me, or maybe just carrying it in my purse muffles my steps so it can’t keep an actual count. Plus, unless I carry it from room to room all day long, it’s gonna miss a bunch of steps and now that I’ve downloaded the app I want full credit for every damn step I take.
I went so far as to look the stupid things up online. I was on the verge of emailing our local purveyor of all things tech to see if he could sell me one when I finally grabbed hold of my thinking and took a giant step back (it counts for at least three, fitness app!).
The thing is made of plastic with little blinking lights on it. How long before it breaks and needs to be discarded? I can tell by the way my clothes fit and my knees feel that I need to walk more and do more yoga. I don’t need a little plastic bracelet to tell me that. What I do need to do is make the time to walk more and go to my yoga class. D’uh.
So, yeah. Temptation abounds. Questions rock. And eventually, the massive clearouts get smaller and further apart.
And you have more of your time, attention and passion to spend on yourself instead of beeping, blinking bits of plastic or whatever the hell else you may have a hankering for.
Confession…bought a Jawbone…you are SO right…do I really need to be told how I slept last night? how many steps I have taken…or not…and be guilted by a wrist band? The conversation I usually have with myself before a ourchase is..”Will this make my life better in any way?” Unfortunately I don’t always like the answer!
“Am I really tired, or do I just feel tired…?”
It’s good not to fall for the blandishments of stuff, but when we do (and it happens to me, too) it’s good to cut ourselves major slack.
But I worry that if we master the calculation of cost, we lose sight of the worth of things.
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