As Independence Day has just passed, I’ve been thinking about independence from stuff.
Three years ago, we moved into this house in a rush. We’d been renting the back half of a lady’s house and with our then three-year-old, it seemed frightfully small. So we rushed out of that apartment as quickly as possible and threw our possessions into the house in every nook and cranny.
Also, we had saved everything that my son had ever used as a baby, figuring we’d be all prepared for the next wee one. Then our next wee one was born a different gender in a different season of the year, so none of the clothes really worked as hand-me-downs. Also, being the first granddaughter, she was showered in toys, just as my son had been.
So we had an entire wall of plastic bins filled with baby toys and clothes, which we’d packed and moved twice, and – for the most part – they remained in those plastic bins.
And that doesn’t even cover the graveyard of dead computers my husband has inherited, or the boxes of mementoes I can’t quite part with, or the stacks of kitchen utensils I’ve been given over the years that I don’t really use because as I’ve mentioned before, I don’t cook very well and certainly nothing fancy.
With the craziness of a book launch and my frantic, stressful dash to deadline with my second book, I’m overwhelmed by a need to simplify.
This week I cleaned out my bathroom cabinets, then I moved onto the front hall closet, then the kitchen closet where we hang our coats. Next I’m tackling the cupboard under the sink.
When I clean something out, I feel like I can breathe again.
This need to de-clutter started when we “baby-proofed” our home the first time, putting all clutter out of reach and away from tiny hands. I looked around and exhaled, and decided I loved the clean look. At the next garage sale, we ruthlessly purged the knickknacks.
Now that I work at home, this is my environment, my habitat, and to see jumbled clutter behind every cupboard door ticks my blood pressure up a notch each time.
Unfortunately, this is a hard concept for my son to get behind, maybe because he’s rarely had to part with a toy. At most, it ends up in a storage bin and we’ve been known to retrieve something when he suddenly remembers it months after we put it away (and this kid’s memory for such things is astonishing). It’s not that he’s so greedy he wants every toy in sight, it’s that he remembers how much fun he had playing with it, and so he invests the thing with the emotion, and can’t bear to let it go.
I can relate. I mentioned above my treasure trove of mementoes. And I still have my prom dress. But I don’t want him to be crippled by a dependence on stuff for his happiness. I want him to see that the joy comes from the fun, not from the thing, and he creates the fun himself with his imagination.
We’re working on it, slowly but surely. Here’s to independence from things, a lesson we need to remember at every age.