In any given year, my New Year's Resolutions list is topped with one of these three items:
- Lose weight
- get in shape
- be a size _____ (fill in an unrealistic single digit).
In 2009 I have decided that while I still want to get in shape, lose weight and drop a dress size (or three) my list will be topped with Simple Living. Simple Living does not mean living like a fool (ba dum bum: drum roll) but to reduce the excess in my life. With the life changing events of the last few weeks, I found that I need to focus on what is really important or enough for me and to get rid of the rest.
"Living in a way that is outwardly simple and inwardly rich."
— Duane Elgin
My decision is scary. I like stuff. I like having stuff. I like talking about stuff, when I am going to get more stuff, where I am going to get more stuff. I like giving my kids stuff.
I like stuff. Despite this attachment, I find that the choice is frightening but it is possible. Like all changes it will be new and different but it will also be a relief to not worry about how to get the latest something and to focus and use the things that I already have.
Whenever money and stuff are a focus, two things come to mind: Star Trek and D.H. Lawrence.
Seriously. These two things may seem unrelated but bear with me and you will see why.
As a Trekkie - Next Generation- one of the most memorable episodes is called The Most Toys. In short, Kivas Fajo
steals kidnaps the android Data to add him to his collection of objects. Fajo just intends to keep Data along with other objects he has stolen from across the solar system. Fajo is quite miserable despite having "collected" priceless items from across the universe. He is a lonely bitter man and I see that if I don't stop the path that I am on, I should become a lonely bitter woman.
This is where D. H. Lawrence comes in. His story, The Rocking Horse Winner, is about one boy's quest to change his family's luck as well as gain his mother's love by making money through the race horse winners he can pick by riding a toy race horse. There are some other themes that I won't delve into but I was always struck by Lawrence's writing:
a voice would start whispering: "There must be more money! There must be more money!"
At times I feel like this voice is in my house, lurking in my car, hiding out in the stacks suggesting that I need more. More money for more stuff. More space to keep the stuff. Be more. Do more. get more. More, MORE, MORE! I don't know if its my age- I am ripe for a midlife crisis- but I have really been thinking that it is time. Time to get *it* together. It being my life. There are parts of my life that I love: my family and my job and then there are areas that need a vast improvement. I am not satisfied and no amount of money or stuff can make me happy.
Simple Living was not an epiphany. It has long been coming as I try to cram more yarn on my bin, another Barbie for The Bee, more music on my iPod. I ask myself, "What, Who is this for?" and the answer is always a blank. Is money happiness or is it merely a way to cause a high that masks the real problems. I watch as people with less do more than I, with all of my everything, continue to flounder or just break even.
I thought I was going to have a problem with this new way of life but with the economy the way it is, I have gotten support from my whole family. While some may not totally understand it, they are willing to go along and see where this new way of life will take me.
My action plan to integrate simplicity:
'No'. Instead of always taking on more than I can handle, taking more than I need and grabbing as much as I can, I am going to say no.
Defer gratification. I am going to impose a 24-48 hour timeout before I purchase ANYTHING.
Clear the clutter. As much as I love swag, quality crap and luxury crap, there is no need for me to keep every pen, sticky pad, key chain or other giveaway that I've collected through the various conferences, walks, and workshops that I have attended over the last three years. Coming soon to a thrift shop near you: bags from Baker and Taylor, PNC and Ingram.
One in, one out. When I bring another anything into my life, something must go. At the rate I am going, I will be on the news in 20 years as the person who was killed by an avalanche of books collapsing one her.
Using what I've got. Instead of running towards the latest and greatest, I am going to pause and take stock of what I've already have.
I feel giddy just typing these!
2009 looks to be a positive new route for me and it can and will be easier without so much.