The Gilded Cage


“Our life is frittered away by detail… simplify, simplify.”  Henry David Thoreau

My niece, Tree Bunny (not her real name. My brother is not a hippy) has recently begun the minimalist 21 day experiment.   In the challenge a person packs up everything they own and sticks it in a room.  Then items are removed from that room only as needed.  Day one you may want to go get your toothbrush, and some clean underwear.  Perhaps a dish, some cutlery and a pot the next morning when you want to have oatmeal for breakfast.  And slowly you replace only the things you truly need and use into your daily life. 

 I have to admit that this paring life down to stark nothingness strangely appeals to me.

Tree Bunny is mostly through the challenge.  She has exactly one plate, one bowl, one fork, spoon and knife, one mug, one week’s worth of clothes, 2 books (omg that gives me palpitations… 2 books??) and just a few incidental items, like toiletries and towels.  Her groceries are purchased with absolutely no waste allowed.  If she knows she will eat 2 bananas and 1 apple, that is what she buys.  In her words, this experiment has blown her mind.  It is “so surprisingly freeing and feels soooo good.” She has kept two pictures for her walls because she loves them and they are pretty, but basically “everything else had to go”.  She can pack her entire life into one trunk and she is blissfully happy about that. 

I would wager big bucks that this bunny was a monk in a past life.  But I digress.   

The important things in life aren’t things.  I know this.  I try to live this, engendering a more “need” than “want” mentality when I shop.  Stuff can accumulate so easily.  This fact was never more apparent than in early April when we moved from Kelowna to Cranbrook.  My American Husband and I had made strides to simplify our lifestyle, or so we thought, but still we ended up with more boxes full of stuff than would fit in the biggest truck the moving company had to offer.  Where did it all come from?  Is that what happens when you leave two boxes alone in a dark room? 

So I have decided to take a page from Tree Bunny’s book (one of the two she kept).  I don’t necessarily feel the need to pare down so drastically, but pare down I must.  No more “This might come back in style” or “What if we need it one day?”  And really, will I fix that broken thing that has been collecting dust for 3 years?  It’s time to get busy.  It’s time to release everything that  I no longer need.  If I don’t use it, or love it, then I am getting rid of it.

Except my books.  Naturally.

The more stuff we accumulate the greater our obligation to store it, house it, clean it, pay for it, and protect it.  These things we desire become the pretty bars in the cage they create for us, shiny and gilded perhaps, but locking us in nonetheless.  Every morning we wake up too early, rush out of our big house, careful to lock the door to keep all of our stuff safe, then head off in the car we are still making payments on to sit in an office doing a job (that let’s be honest, we probably dislike) so that we can make the money to pay for the car and the house and the stuff that sit empty all day. 

What kind of madness have we created for ourselves?

When did the accumulation of things begin to outweigh the importance of free time, leisure, relaxation and family?  Did the money we spent to impress the neighbours bring us the satisfaction we presumed it would? Of course the neighbours we are trying to impress are so busy trying to impress us they barely notice.  In literature we call that “irony”.

Hand me the keys to this prison, I want out!  I have closets to clean and boxes to empty.  I have a whole wardrobe of outfits that hang there waiting patiently while day in and day out I wear about 10% of the clothes I own.  I have boxes in my basement that have made it through three moves without ever being unpacked.  Thank goodness the Matrix has a huge trunk space because things are about to get real. 

And my battle cry?

If I don’t love it, or use it…. hasta la vista baby.




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