The notion of “voluntary simplicity” in connection with me seems crazy. Simplicity is not one of my characteristics. Packrat is. I come from a long line of packrats. My mother has a T-shirt that says “I’m not a packrat, I’m a collector.” We have to be forgiven. My mother was raised in a house that not only contained her parents’ trumpery, but her grandmother’s as well.
Many afternoons were spent by my cousin and me exploring our grandmother’s basement and the trunks that contained generations of interesting clothing and artifacts. Grandma Mills gave us leave to poke around all we liked except for the trunk which contained the belongings of our mothers’ brother. The uncle we would never know in this life had been thrown from a horse in front of a truck and killed at age thirteen and obtained instant sainthood in the minds of our grandparents and to the confusion of his preschool age sisters. I am now the keeper of many of Austin’s things, including a cigar box almost identical even to the contents to the one in the movie To Kill a Mockingbird, and I’m not about to get rid of them, but I do consider myself a recovering packrat.
I’m not as bad as some family members who could probably benefit from medication. One relative sobbed over lunch one day, “My neighbor died and her husband had a dumpster in front of the house before I knew what was happening. I just know Pat will do that if I die first.” You think? This woman has trails through her house of stuff. Not only do I not want to be her, I want to create a life that is less cluttered physically and emotionally. We hang on to things for a variety of reasons. I’m trying to let go.
Before the lazy days of Summer were abruptly ended by the realization that we were free falling into an economic recession, I had obtained a copy of Dominguez & Robin’s Your Money or Your Life. Reading it and getting serious about creating new patterns of living became imperative. The philosophy behind the book and what has become the voluntary simplicity movement is not a budget, but a different way of consuming and living and seems to be the perfect reading material for a season generally given up to conspicuous consumption and perfect for making New Year’s resolutions.
Your Money or Your Life is about figuring out what “enough” looks like. I’m working on that. I have already figured out what “too much” looks like. It is about living simply so that other may simply live and walking gently through this life and Earth.
With snow and ice slowing down the pace of life I have been able to focus on organizing some things with an eye to paring down my entirely too large pile and beginning afresh with a New Year. It is a mighty task I’ve set upon for I’ve been collecting for more years than I would like to admit to. It may well take me all of 2009 to get to where I’d like to be, but it’s the journey that counts so I keep plugging away at eliminating things and accounting for every penny of my money. This time next year I hope to have less stuff and more financial independence.
You’ll have to excuse me now. I’ve got to get back to creating the life I want to have.