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.