For some reason I was under the impression I was a person of few possessions. Our house wasn't big, everything had it's place, I was pretty well organized. When I
brought something new into the house I would store it in a place with
similar items, proud of the deal I'd found or feeling good about the
empty niche it had filled. I wasn't sure when I'd
get around to using it, but I was sure it would be my new favorite.
Can't you just feel the dopamine? (Go here to read about the literal head rush we get when we shop).
When it came to the task of packing for our move I started going through the closets and drawers and wondering, Where did all this stuff come from? Who WAS this person that thought she needed this? But never mind, I've finally got an excuse to clear some of it out as surely I would have an even smaller space in England to manage.
About the time I started whittling down I came across an article
about Bea Johnson and her family in California who had managed to transition from a 5000
square foot home with the large yard that took most of their weekends
to maintain to less than 2000 square feet near a small town
center (and remember, small town in California still means a Whole Foods
down the street). She's gone beyond what most people could ever do. She
buys all their food in bulk in re-usable bags. She brings glass jars to
the butcher in which to carry home her meat. She loads up a week's
worth of baguettes in a pillowcase and stores them in the freezer. She wraps her kids' lunches in cotton dishcloths and pours their milk into
stainless steel bottles. Her two boys have embraced this life of
austerity and limit their toys to what will fit into one medium sized basket. She takes photos of their school art projects then
recycles the art. She limits herself to around 15 items of
clothing, not counting 7 pair of underwear, and replaces them twice
yearly but only through consignment shopping. A lot of readers
thought she was stark raving mad not to mention cruel. But she claims it
now takes her about a half hour to clean the entire house and they all
spend more time together because they're not preoccupied with
maintaining, organizing or cleaning all their stuff. She has a new book out called Zero Waste Home and a blog as well. Check it out and be inspired.
I don't think I will ever go to that extreme, but I've managed to let go of things I thought I needed to hold onto. I am finally able to look through a closet and say, "well, you paid $100 for this when you were jealous that C was traveling across Africa while you were home being pregnant, but you haven't worn it since so what's the point?" My wedding dress, which is really just a silky Indonesian frock I bought off the rack and haven't worn since 1998, has gone into the Yard Sale pile. And because I've already admitted it to my mom, I'm giving away the quilt she spent months making for me when I was in high school but haven't used since I became really picky about my bedding. I can still appreciate her talent for sewing, and I have lots of photos of myself in that dress. When I was finished going through my closet and drawers I realized that most of the items in the give away pile were things I'd bought new, and the things I loved and wore often were from the Goodwill. I felt really stupid.
I'm not going to buy a copy of Zero Waste Home, because she would want me to check it out of the library, which I did. After I finished it I spent about 7 minutes sewing handkerchiefs out of old t-shirts before I decided I had gone insane. So instead I got my dopamine rush by ordering heavy duty monogrammed canvas bags for my future shopping, high end horse hair utility brushes for my simplified cleaning routine and reusable mesh bags so I never have to use plastic again. That is, until I use up the 6 boxes of Ziplocks I bought at Costco...