29 May 2011

Lighten Your Load--Can I Live With Half?

As a child, I used to cry over every lost possession as if it were a dear friend. Balloons that flew away into the clouds. Rocks that disappeared from my pockets. Books and pictures and clothes and shoes and notebooks. Being  very sentimental child when it came to just abput everything, I placed value on them to the point of anthropomophism and clung to them tightly...fearing that if I let go I would lose friends, not things.

Since leaving the house to go to university, I began accumulating more. Furniture for apartments. A bed. A desk. Pots and pans. Tables. A television. Shelves. Dishes. Silverware. Towels. Christmas decorations. With the help of my parents I often provided the nessecities for the places that I lived, dragging a bigger and bigger pile with me each time I moved (eight times in four years...or roughly once a semester). 

After I began to travel more ambitiously, I realized how much of a huge waste of effort this instinct to collect and save and stash away is. Never again, I swore to myself after my journey home from Italy, when I had far too much crap to fit into my suitcases and had to throw things away at five AM in the Bologna airport's check in line. Not to mention that I realized that this same hoarding instinct can land you on A&E after twenty years, claiming sanity amidst the fifty piles of unused Charmin toilet paper blocking your living room. "I'm a collector, I swear! Don't take my Charmin! i know them all by name!"

I got rid of a ton of stuff when I got home from studying abroad. I took boxes and bags to good will. But the true test came when I decided to move to South America for six months. My packing criteria:
Six months' worth of versitile, warm, layerable clothing of various levels of formality. I needed to be able to dress up for work and special events or dress down for clamboring through mud in the campo. Waterproof layers a plus. I managed to cram it all into a backpack and a suitcase. Most other stuff like contacts and toiletries fit into a purse.

Since actually arriving in South America, my clothing situation has held up nicely...even through the strain of being washed weekly in the shower with shampoo (Yes, I've been doing this for about two months...and yes, my clothes are going to be pretty gross by the end of this). I still find myself wishing I had less, even though I recycle the same outfits over and over each week and despite the holes in basically every piece of clothing I own here. I've started to chafe under the weight of all the things in my room, knowing I will have to carry them on my back in about a month. To chafe under its un-necessity. 

But I am about to find relief. This week, my parents are coming to visit (REJOICE)! They have offered to unburden me of some of my things and lighten the load. I have halved my clothing and objects. Don't believe me? Here are the pictures to prove it. 


The rest of the things that will not go with my parents I will donate, give away, or ditch. I want to see what I really need to get along. Something tells me that it is even less than my already significantly reduced collection. Already I feel lighter. Cleaner. Freer. 

When I return to the States, I plan on further reducing my burden of things and giving away most of my possessions. Anything that I truly need I will keep, but any time I receive or buy something new the new rule will be that I must then choose something else to give away to keep the balance of simplicity in my life and to afford my fellow beings the chance to simply live (à la Mahatma Ghandi). Of course, I am not even close to a Ghandi. Not yet. But this is a good first step to living without the burden of things taking the place of the truly important people, experiences, and feelings that life ought to be made up of in their place.

"Generosity is what keeps the things I own from owning me." Eugene Cho, founder of the One Day's Wages movement (for more information, http://www.onedayswages.org/).

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