Sunday, November 23, 2008

Mired in Materialism

I feel like I'm in the middle of this maze trying to find my way out to the wide open spaces where I can breathe deeply again. The maze in my life right now consists of all my earthly possessions. After 32 years in this home we are moving. My husband and I realized the other day that this is the first time we've actually moved a typical sized household. When we originally bought this home we were young marrieds with very little materially to our name. I wish I could say that's still true. Oh, don't get me wrong. I'm thankful for the things surrounding me. But I realize I don't really need half of it. And now that we are actually packing, alot of it needs to go. Trying to decide what to keep and what to get rid of is no easy task.

There are things that are difficult to throw out like birthday cards sent a few years ago by my step-mom who has dementia and is now in a care facility. She wrote so eloquently on each card. Or how about the glass plates my mom used when entertaining her friends for lunch in the 50's. The memories associated with my mom using these plates are really vivid. But some of the plates are chipped and I don't use them myself. I now know why people were much slimmer in the 50's. When you went to lunch, you actually ate off an 8 inch lunch-sized plate. Portion control was no problem then.

Then there are the gifts my children made in pre-school like handprints on potholders or Mother's Day cards they made just for me. I think I'll be keeping those. I won't even count the number of CD's we have! Now with ipods, do we really need all these? And how many do we still listen to? Our local library takes donations. Thank goodness!

I keep wondering what would have happened had I not periodically cleaned out closets. At least I went through and got rid of clothes, books, etc. that I didn't need anymore on a fairly regular basis. You hear about people who never throw anything away. A friend of mine actually had to clean out a relative's home who never threw anything away. My friend found a note written by my mother in the 40's...something very insignificant, but this homeowner had saved it along with hundreds of other pieces of paper. I can't imagine having the job of cleaning out a home like that.

My friend, Anne Bauman, a Professional Organizer, reminds me there is a mindset one should have when realizing you need to radically downsize possessions. She says she encourages people to remember they got some use out of the item they are parting with and now someone else will love it and use it too. Somehow it doesn't seem wasteful if you are passing it on to someone else for their benefit.

There is something very freeing about not owning too many things. I'm realizing that in some cases the memories mean more to me than the object. "That was a great book. I remember how much I enjoyed it." Will I read it again? Probably not. I'm feeling the load lightening each day.

Photo: Alexander Rivosh/

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