I am now in the ninth month of my buy-nothing adventure. Some things feel easier, some harder. For the most part I have gotten used to not buying things and so in that sense I think I have begun to be reconditioned away from a buy-first approach to my life. On the other hand, there continue to be things that tempt me on occasion.
A few weekends ago I spent several hours helping to clean out my husband’s grandmother’s house. She has moved in to an assisted living facility which is a great choice for her and it has been a good transition. What this has meant for us is we have been sorting through her belongings. Five bedrooms and almost 2500 square feet worth of sorting.
As we moved furniture into the garage to make space, sifted through old documents and tried to sort the sentimental from the disposable I was struck by the sheer volume of what landed in the latter pile. It was a house full of memories to be sure. Photos attested to people who have loved and been loved by a woman 96 years into what has been a life well lived. Meaningful items caused us to pause and share memories. To remember moments spent with Gram, to pass along family stories to our kids – though in truth most of these came from the photos and not the stuff. The stuff that carried value, sentimental or otherwise, was few in comparison to the rest. Mostly, it was just a lot things that had been bought, received and retained over a long life. A lot of things. In every room, on every surface, in every drawer. All kinds of things. Small things, big things, old things and new things. My girls were fascinated and lobbied hard to bring much of it home, as great-Grammy had generously decided they could take almost anything they liked. Thanks, Gram! This potential migration of stuff aside this whole exercise caused me to consider the drawers, shelves and closets of my own home. With 55 less years to accumulate I still have places that are full to bursting. What will it look like half a century from now if my accumulation continues unchecked? And more to the point what is the point of this accumulation if it all ends with later generations sorting through and seeking to find meaning in a sea of stuff trying to tell the story of my life?
At the end of my shift at Gram’s house I came away with a deeper sense of a lesson I feel I have been learning all year. Simply put – I would like to become someone who consumes less, owns less and is less focused on things. I don’t think I will ever be a minimalist in any real sense of the word. I like having some stuff in my house. I even like some clutter, but stuff can get out of hand and take on a life of its own. I have seen many times over these past nine months that too many things can be a burden and less things can bring freedom so I want to lean in to that. I want my home to be filled with memories you can’t put in a drawer or on a shelf.