Clean sweep fever!

bags

The de-clutter bug is catching! Last night I dropped six bags of clothing off at my church’s community clothes closet. Two were mine, and four were from a dear friend who is also working on reducing the number of items in her home. She and I agree that it feels aahhh-maz-ing to get this unwanted, unused and unnecessary clutter out of our way!

Interestingly, today I attended a professional women’s luncheon where the topic was dealing with difficult people. I expected the discussion to focus on how to handle difficult people in the workplace, but the speakers were from the local hospital’s geriatric psychiatric and community education departments who presented information about dealing with adults (aging and otherwise) who suffer from ailments that lead to conduct such as hoarding and inappropriate sexual behavior. It was a good presentation, and it was interesting to see how many women identified with statements regarding having too many possessions, or ways in which possessions prevented them from easily performing everyday tasks like being able to eat a meal at the dinner table, or even sit on the couch to watch television.

I think there’s a big difference between being a hoarder and having too much stuff, but in many ways I can see the correlation between possessions and emotion. A lot of us hang onto things because we feel getting rid of them would dishonor someone’s memory, or cause us to lose attachments to people we love. I’m guilty of it, too. I have a few stuffed animals from my childhood sitting in a small box in a spare bedroom. They were toys I loved as a child, and I’m having a hard time letting go. I also held onto a few things from my previous marriage a little longer than I should have, until I figured out that having those things physically present in my home also allowed them to have a presence in my brain. Who needs that kind of emotional baggage when you can toss it in the garbage and literally kick it to the curb? (And, oh, the satisfaction I got out of that!)

I know it’s not always that easy. I’m really fortunate to be in a place now where it’s easier to separate myself from my possessions. The trip to Haiti last year, seeing so many people living with so little —  well, it left a lasting impression. I only spent nine days there, but it didn’t take long to realize that many of us in the United States suffer from overabundance. We have so stinkin’ much, and yet we’re so stinkin’ unhappy, selling our souls to make a buck when none of our earthly riches can follow us into heaven.

I’m really curious about what other people think about this topic. It’s been on my mind for weeks (obviously!), and I’m finding tons of great blogs and articles online (plus some pretty great sermons from my pastor) on minimalism, what a truly happy/successful life looks like, and the type of legacy we’re building for future generations. If anybody reading (hi, Mom!) has thoughts, leave a comment here or on Facebook, or drop me an e-mail to jennifer greene 09 at gmail dot com (spelled that out so the spambots don’t find me!). I’d love to hear from you!

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Shedding

Have you thought about how much time you spend at your trash can?

I admit it’s a strange question. But today at work, after muttering under my breath yet again about the amount of unnecessary paper that crosses my desk only to end up in the recycling bin, it struck me that I spend a lot of time throwing things away.  Paper, food wrappings, junk mail, boxes, unwanted items … all sorts of “stuff” that clutters my workspace, my home and my mind. It feels like I’m constantly sorting, stacking, organizing, or purging.

And I’ve had enough.

One of my goals for the upcoming year is to simplify my life as much as possible. My values have changed over the past few years, so while “old” me was mostly preoccupied with accumulating material success and possessions, “new” me is more interested in achieving peace.

The first step toward that goal is clearing my physical space of all its clutter so that my mental space has more room to breathe. It’s been a giant purge party at my house for the past few weeks as I’ve sorted through clothes, shoes, toiletries, books, movies, junk drawers, and spare rooms, eliminating everything that doesn’t make me happy or add value to my life. Do I really need eight coffee mugs? Will I ever use those picture frames from that vacation I took six years ago with people who are no longer my family? Is the Twilight series a literary masterpiece that should remain in my home so people think I’m smart?

No, nope, and definitely not.

I’ve been de-cluttering slowly over the past couple of weeks, and it’s actually been kind of fun. I’ve got at least two garbage bags full of clothes to donate to my church’s community clothes closet, and a small pile of things I’m saving to donate to the church yard sale in April, which raises funds for mission work. Everything else goes to friends, gets recycled, or is thrown away.

Throughout the process I’ve had a lot of time to reflect on how and why we accumulate so much stuff. I have a lot of theories, but at the root of each one is that we’ve somehow come to equate success with wealth and possessions. We think that the more we accumulate, the better off we are. I might have believed that at one point in my life, but now I simply don’t buy it (pardon the pun). I think I’ve reached an age where I have just enough time and experience under my belt that my attitude has shifted toward a different way of thinking.

In a famous quote from the movie Fight Club, character Tyler Durden declares, “ … an entire generation pumping gas, waiting tables; slaves with white collars. Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy s*** we don’t need. We’re the middle children of history, man. No purpose or place. We have no Great War. No Great Depression. Our Great War’s a spiritual war. Our Great Depression is our lives. We’ve all been raised on television to believe that one day we’d all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars. But we won’t. And we’re slowly learning that fact. And we’re very, very pissed off.

That hits me right in the heart, because I find a lot of truth in those words. I don’t want to live a life trying to climb a ladder whose rungs keep being sawed off just above my head. I want different. I want better.

And I really do believe that pursuing less .. will lead to more.

Restart

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the new year. I wasn’t around on this blog much in 2014, but if you read the few posts I made or are my friend on Facebook, you know that it was a bumpy ride.

The low, of course, was my dad’s cancer diagnosis, treatment, and recovery. He’s doing great now, and I’m so thankful not only for his survival but also the many ways the experience changed and blessed our family.

Speaking of family, we gained a new member last year, which was easily the highest of the highs. My nephew Carter has brought smiles, snuggles, laughter and a whirlwind of photo sharing like you wouldn’t believe. All of us are working to make sure he’s spoiled rotten (much to his dad’s dismay!).

There were other bright spots in 2014. I had an unforgettable experience serving on a mission trip to Haiti, where I met people who left deep, deep marks on my heart. I completed my first 5k race, lost about 15 pounds, and started on a (winding) path to better health. I dated a bit – and lived to tell about it.

It was a pretty good year. I find myself surrounded by a loving family, wonderful friends, the light and love of Christ, and, of course, my stinker dog Waylon. There are occasional dark moments, of course, because this is life and it’s not always roses and sunshine. But I have to say that right now? Life is pretty sweet.

So what could I possibly wish for 2015? Continuity, for starters. If the coming year ends like 2014 did, I’ll have no complaints. I learned a lot, and loved a lot, and grew a lot. TV fashion guru Stacy London said in a commercial several years ago something to the effect of really enjoying being in her 30s because she was finally aware of what she loves and who she loves. I have to agree with her. Now that I’m a few years older, I have a much better sense of value and priority. The things I’m longing for in 2015 are related that new understanding. I want quiet. Simplicity. Authenticity. I want less … but also more.

I stumbled onto a website a few weeks ago that has been really helpful in helping me think of ways to achieve those goals. Zen Habits author Leo Babauta’s A Brief Guide to Life pretty accurately sums up what I want for my life:

less TV, more reading

less shopping, more outdoors

less clutter, more space

less rush, more slowness

less consuming, more creating

less junk, more real food

less busywork, more impact

less driving, more walking

less noise, more solitude

less focus on the future, more on the present

less work, more play

less worry, more smiles

breathe

These are my goals. I know the path ahead won’t be easy. It seldom is. But I’m so looking forward to it.

Here we go!

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