Saturday, January 15, 2011

The Ugly Materialist

Once upon a time there was a very ugly duckling.  Only it turned out that it wasn't a duckling after all.  It was a young swan.  He didn't fit in because he wasn't with his own kind.

Have you ever wondered how that swan felt when he realized where he belonged?  When he found his own kind and felt like he was home?  He was okay.  There was nothing wrong with him.  In fact, he was glorious and beautiful, despite what he'd been told.

I found a little bit of that home-ness recently.

For years I would go through and purge my house at least twice a year.  Gut the whole thing.  And get rid of trailerloads of stuff.  Spring and fall.  I would send my kids away with my husband for the day and just pull everything out of all the closets, all the bedrooms, and chuck stuff.  As my kids got older this got more difficult.  They had more stuff and noticed when it disappeared.

Then I went to bed for a year and a half.  I'm still not really sure what made the bottom drop out of my world at that time, but it was not pretty.  And I got behind on the gutting (along with so many other things).

You should know that my family likes stuff.  And my mom has a shopping problem.  To the point where she used to show up at my house three or four times a week with stuff she bought for us.  Nothing we needed usually, just stuff.  It's tough to say no when you know it's given out of love.  Or when your kids see it and want it because it's shiny and new.

But I got buried.  My house got deeper and deeper in stuff.

And then I got a job and found out I can easily be a workaholic.  I was working 50-60 hours a week while parenting five active kids.  Basic housework didn't get done; forget about purging.

Then my health plummeted again and I had to quit my job.  My kids needed me and I just didn't have enough energy for them and work.

So I came home.  And I was happy about that decision.  It's where I needed to be.

But I still have all this stuff.  And I'm six or seven years behind in the gutting.  And I want it gone.

Did I mention that I don't like stuff?  I'm not a fan of possessions.  I do not want to be the one with the most toys.  I see very little value in it and they just add to the weight I feel in life.  More stuff to worry about, clean up, take care of.  Ugh!  Not the life I want.

And then it happened.  I found my kind.  I found the minimalist movement.

It's kind of a big thing right now.  Lots of people are doing it.  And that usually would keep me from doing it because I hate going along with the crowd.  But I can't turn away.  I can't resist the pull.  I want less.  So much less.

I'm not one to push a cause.  I'm not interested because it's good for the planet.  I don't care if anyone else chooses to do it.  I don't plan to get rid of all my possessions and live out of a box.

And I don't think there is anything wrong with people who like stuff.  Materialists.  I am just not one of them.

I am a minimalist.

Making my life what I want it to be will take a long time.  Even for people who feel well it sometimes takes years to make the change.  And because I don't feel well I'll have to take it slowly.

But I'm okay with that because I finally know the way home.


Margy said...

You and I are soul mates on this. I fantasize about living a life in which I only have just what I need. And I am married to a man and mother to a son who love their things. It's a challenging journey.

Kazzy said...

My house is really divided. On the main level, where I like to live, not much stuff. But I feel like gravity pulls a lot of it right down stairs.

Last summer we did a good purging of the shed and carport. Felt great. We don't have a garage or storage unit. Nothing (not one thing) in the attic. Yet I still feel crowded on quite often.

I am really drawn to the minimalistic style in living, in decorating, in everything. I am behind you 100 percent.

Kelly Latour said...

I am behind you on this front too! My husband and his Mom are collectors, of everything. If she sees something on sale, she buys it. She doesn't care if we don't need it, one day we might, and when we do we will have it handy.
Last week when I started purging our cupboards she wanted to go through the bags for Goodwill just in case she wanted the items. I said no. Partially because a bunch of the items were never worn and from her, and partially because she really, really doesn't need them in her space upstairs.
Hopefully once we move in the Spring I will be able to curb Jon's collection habit. As long as we have the basics and everything we need to live we don't need all the clutter!
We also want to have 5 little ones (god willing) and i'm hoping that if we start them on the purging from day one, it will be less of a struggle. Yours may be a bit old for it now, but finding a good cause that you can donate to might make all the difference. Parting with that shirt could be easier if you know that someone who really needs it is going to get it!

K and D Roylance said...

It was after Karl's dad passed away that "stuff" became such an issue. How do you decide which stuff you keep and what to give away....what about all the pictures (many of whom you have no idea of who or what they are), the books, the year books, the records (household finances, work stuff)... Are you suppose to care about everything they had and kept the same way they did?
Karl's goal is to have worth while things (how is that subjective) to make that challenge easier on our only child. It is an ongoing, daily challenge, to clean out "stuff".

Bonnie said...

My childlike self keeps following me around getting in the way of my adult purger. It says, "Oooh, look, a pretty piece of glass!" and there it goes, and my adult self comes back later and says, "why in the world is there a piece of glass in the craft room?" I think schizophrenia might be in my future, except that my adult self is very tolerant of the little cherub somewhere in the back of my heart, so I figure peace = mental health, right? Hence, when the 5 foot mirror at the bottom of the stairs broke when I sent the exerball down, I said, Hm, this is an opportunity to cut it into something interesting. We like each other, my inner mother and my cherub, but we don't always see eye to eye. Hope your voices see eye to eye soon.

Lisa said...

You go girl! Are you tossing the stuff? Or selling it? I'm ridding myself of stuff as well. Only I'm getting rid of it on eBay. lol.

Unknown said...

Here's my problem: I am a complete minimalist when I get home...seriously I only want a bed and chest of draws in my room. But as soon as I go to the shops I transform into a materialist- spilt think?

Good luck with all the chucking, it'll take time but you will most definately get it done!!

Libby said...

Agree - I'm not a big fan of stuff and have been fortunate to move hemispheres which really helps you purge. I used to love backpacking and knowing that I was carrying everything I really needed for at least the next 3 months!

TornadoTwos said...

I am the same way, I think it's because my mom raised us in a very streamlined home and always told us that clutter = stress and mess. We are 7 living in a very small home, and I hate that not everything has a "home". I do not like things being out. My favorite thing to do is go through a closet and reorganize/purge. Sick, huh?

Thanks for visiting me on my SITS day!

Tanja from Minimalist Packrat said...

You'll get through it Robin! The best thing is that you've given yourself the time at home, that way you can focus on regaining your health.

In the process one old pair of socks will get tossed, then a weird lamp you never liked, then a pair of sweatpants... it will go on like that till you love everything you see and aren't sinking in stuff anymore!


Kat said...

Yea, go you! I hope you enjoy slowly decluttering while your health improves. I've been decluttering since early November and having a blast. It feels so good.

Michelle said...

I so need to do this too. I am not quite a minimalist, but not a materialist either. It is hard to hit that happy medium though. And my boyfriend and kids are definitely materialist and it gets to me.

D. Rene said...

Understanding who you are is such a strengthening process. Good for you.

I purge regularly but not for good reasons. I get rid of the old so that I can make room for new. I teeter on the edge of materialism - until my Husband starts paying attention to all the packages being delivered by Fedex.

Then I slow down, ha.