I have been thinking about how to spend my time pushing our family towards our goal. What is our goal exactly? To spend more, if not most of our time doing things we love or enjoy… Making our short lives meaningful. There are blogs in the gazillions about homesteading, minimalism, mindfulness etc. I suppose if there are so many people writing about this, it could indicate a small cultural effort to re-define purpose and time. I don’t feel like I am writing sentences that haven’t been written a hundred times already. I know I am a chicken raising, organic food buying/soon to be growing, cloth diapering, yoga doing, apple (the company and the fruit) loving, lifestyle blog writing cliche. I also drive a clean diesel station wagon, sometimes I mock myself.
It doesn’t matter though. These are good trends, even if they are marketed and packaged and adulterated and whatever. It is happening, and each minute I spend writing or doing one of these things is one I spend doing something I enjoy, something that is good for me and something that teaches my son a little more about trying to focus one what is important. I am not above television marathons, and I check my Facebook feed probably as often was most teenagers. I like eating greasy pizza and sitting on my butt. I am just trying to not take myself to seriously, to fall into self righteousness and holier than though writing. It is annoying and there is plenty of it out there. I am not sure anyone will ever even read this, and if they they do, I am not sure that they won’t shake their head and move on to Facebook thinking that they just lost 5 minutes that will never be retrieved. Moving on. Living with less.
When we moved into this house, it was more or less just as my stepmother left it when she left for the Mayo clinic not knowing she was never going to return. Some of her family had come in and organized some things, but her make up was here, her dish washing sponges in the sink, and salmon was in the freezer.
By the way, she and my dad had been divorced since I was in college. I suppose this makes her my ex stepmother, and she and I never properly reclaimed our relationship after the divorce. However, she very much raised me, and sadly it wasn’t until after the sudden death of her son that she and I slowly started moving back towards eachother. Something I had hoped would be aided by birth of my son, whom she was apparently never destined to meet. Anyway, to quote the movie Clueless “you divorce wives, not children.” She is and was my stepmother.
So, when we moved into her house 8 months after she passed there was a great deal of emotional and physical baggage that accompanied it. I was overwhelmed by the endeavor, my husband was working long hours, and I had a small baby to care for. My wonderful friends, the same I endured high school with, gathered to help. We went though everything. Silverware, old medication, boxes of photos, dog leashes, cleaning items, old journals, several old printers, you name it. It was an enormous task. My stepmother lived in this house since my dad built it 20 years ago. Before she died, one of the things she said was, I can’t go, I have left everything a mess. Things were a mess, but it got me really thinking about all the stuff we leave behind when we die. All the things the we bought. For each item, she spent time working to earn money to purchase it, only to have me throw it out or deliver it to good will. It seemed disrespectful of me and at the same time, it made the act of acquiring things seem all the more pointless.
I do not mean this to be in any way and indictment of how my stepmother lived, she was a beautiful person who was dealt a painful hand, but still managed to live her life well. Perhaps better than most, but my authority on the topic is lacking. I am commenting on how we all live. Do you or do you not have a defunct printer in your garage, or some expired medication in your bathroom?
I entered this house bringing with it some baggage of my own. At some point in my legal education, I developed a horror of clutter. This was furthered as I entered a job where my caseload was borderline unmanageable. It definitely had to do with the hyper organizational legal thinking that is the benefit and bane of a legal education. It was also a survival tactic, the only way to tackle something unmanageable is to take it bit by bit and to prioritize, especially with a constant onslaught of deadlines and actual potentially dangerous (to someone) consequences. So, efficiency and organization became important to me. Couple this with living amidst someone else’s lifetime worth of stuff, and you have a really crazy making situation. Oh, and add a new baby and all the new mom nesting tendencies that go with it.
I got rid of things by the truckload. Our things, her things, things people inadvertently left on the countertop, my cat’s things. It all had to go. Much of it did. Here I am, nearly a year later, and we still have so so many things. We kept many of the the nice things, potentially useful things, random sentimental things, still so many things. Now I am on the verge of another purge and I truly want to simplify, get us down to only what we really need and really love. This is partly because I hate clutter, this is partly because I like a tidy house, and this is partly because I have a sneaking suspicion that the less we have, the less we will think we need. This is one more step closer to less dependance on the two societal shackles whose grip on us I am seeking to loosen Money and Insurance. I am not sure how stuff and health interacts, but I am not working on developing a dogmatic system here anyway.
I started with the kitchen. When I clean my closet I use the ‘have I worn it in the last 365 days’ rule. I used some tips from the all knowing Google to build on this. Kitchens are an easy place to collect stuff. There are a lot of potentially useful items that you really don’t ever use. New York Times article on point. “I’m looking at you, garlic press.”
So here are the questions I asked myself:
1. Have you used it in the past year?
2. Do you have another item that serves the same purpose as well as others? (Knife vs. garlic press).
3. Is it beautiful AND you love it or use it?