Set Me Free

pink-bird-cage

“You wander from room to room hunting for the diamond necklace that is already around your neck.”   Rumi

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.

58 thoughts on “Set Me Free”

  1. That is why your house looks very Japanese!! I sure admire your niece. I have done mini-versions of this with various categories. The clothes one is what I’m currently in due to my laid up state: two pairs of pants, four tops, two bras, 7 pairs of underwear, two pairs of PJ’s.

    I remember when Dean and I met, that he was appalled at all the things I had. Envelopes of bank statements all neatly stored in date order, every card or letter I had ever received since leaving home at 18. I was a pack rat of memorabilia. I lived in a basement suite that had a fireplace, and Dean had been trying to follow a Buddhist path for some time. He convinced me that I should burn all that paper. So we did. The only thing I regret is that I decided to just burn ALL of it, and in so doing, I burned the letters from my Dad’s mother in England, a grandmother I never met.

    Fast forward to December 2014, and Dean and I are in our umpteenth purge. This time, what’s left is….wait for it….BOOKS. Our identity, or a big part of it. THIS is painful, and shows up our attachment issues. We haven’t completed it. We abandoned it for a while. But we will come back to it. Maybe.

  2. I found my way here via the English professor at large, and I’m glad I did! This post is wonderful – if only I could do likewise. I managed to clear out around a third of the wailing wall in my garage and took it to the thrift store – where I promptly bought other stuff and took it home with me. Sigh. Thanks for the motivation – I’m off to dig through my wardrobe.

  3. Great post that most people can relate to. I’m not a pack rat and I don’t have a tendency to save things, but I know I still have WAY TOO MUCH stuff.

    I’ve at least tried implementing the rule that if something new comes in, a similar object has to leave. Applying it to my shoes has been the most challenging 🙂

  4. I cleaned out stuff back in may or June .. I donated a lot of stuff to goodwill.. If someone had noticed the number of trips I was making might have looked like I was moving. .. Ha ha… Initial round of cleaning out is done but I still got 2-3 rounds to go … It does feel very good and it gets easier to maintain …Less I have less I have to worry about cleaning etc … And more time to read some good books and to focus on writing :))-

  5. I completely agree – decluttering is freedom – except when it comes to books. I have a large plastic bag in my study, where all my books are, and I scan my shelves regularly for ones that can go to the Oxfam shop. I spot one occasionally and drop it in the bag. As the bag fills up over the months and my sense of virtue grows along with it, slowly a sense of dread creeps in. I start to doubt. I go back over the books I’ve chosen. How could I think of giving that one away! It goes back on the shelf. This process continues for a year or so, until I screw my courage to the sticking place and take a bag of six or seven books out of the hundreds I own to the Oxfam bookshop, dump it and run. A paltry triumph but a triumph nonetheless. I won’t disclose in public how many books I’ve bought in that same period of time.

  6. So true! What is that phrase “nature abhors a void” or something like that! I’m just like you … this might come back in style or I may need this later. I just saved a bunch of bubble wrap from a gift I received because “it’s always good to have around!”

  7. I too did not know there was a name for this. I am a pack rat by nature. 15 years ago I decided to change that. Every couple of years we clean house and get rid of clutter. We sell some, give away to family and friends and we donate others. Why hang on to things that you never use? There is other things that go to the recycling center.
    I love to read a lot. I save only my absolute favorite books that I designate as a classic read. The other books I leave in to a thrift store. I buy new used books. If 10 books go out , then 10 new books can replace them. That way I keep my personal library to a managable amount.
    It is funny that you brought this up now because my husband just said it is time to clean house. We are starting in our storage room first.
    Honey

  8. Wonderful post – I know what you mean about all the moves and unopened boxes, plus I had a business office at home for years. This year we are starting to go through it and determine it’s new home. Yes, stuff accumulates way too easily.

  9. I am so with you on this! 2014 has been the Year of the Great Purge here. All year, I have been purging this house room-by-room including the attic and the basement (and the barn, the garage, the shed……oh my!!) In most cases, I’ve followed this by scrubbing and even painting the room. It’s like getting a whole new home….without moving!

  10. It seems I’ve been doing this once a year or so for most of my life, but I didn’t know it had a name. My method is to pick a day and then start at the room furthest from the back door. I then remove everything from that room that is not needed there and it goes into the next room, where I then repeat the process until I get to the back-yard, my truck, and either the good-will store, or the dump, whichever is called for. When I return to my place-of-residence, I am always happy to note that it is then truly…my humble home. This whole process is a lot trickier these last few years in an apartment, but it still works.

  11. My husband and I just moved from a four bedroom 3200 square foot house to a 2 bedroom 1150 square foot apartment. Massive amounts of everything was given away to either our children, or to Goodwill. I cannot tell you how wonderful this feels. We’ve been in the new apartment two months now, and I don’t miss one thing we gave away. I did give lots of books away, and now get e-books on my Nook. I’m starting to miss real books, though, but think I will start going to the library now, instead of buying books.

  12. Wonderful insights! I love what you said about locking our doors to keep our stuff safe while we sit in an office all day doing stuff we don’t like so we can come home to our stuff. Add to that a love of thrift store shopping (which I have) and it just gets kind of ridiculous, doesn’t it? HA! It’s the collective goofy agreements of society that holds this crazy world together, I guess.

  13. We have been exploring the minimalist lifestyle and how far we are willing to go with it. We realized that we cherish our experiences far more than our things. We have rented a unit at a storage place for a few years (we live in a small condo with limited closets), and we have decided to stop renting it by the first of the new year. Like you, though, I cannot quite let go of my books! Let us know how you progress with this! Best, Karen

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