Friday, May 4, 2012

Not Popping Out to the Shops

A couple of years ago we were in the midst of the most disruptive phase of the World's Longest Renovation. Six of us were living in about a third of the house, there was no storage anywhere, literally nowhere even to put another thing on the floor. I love looking down our beautiful clear hallway now, because I still have very clear memories of the floor and walls being stacked with every book we owned, several pieces of furniture, and all of the children's clothes in plastic crates. That was the year I became an Extreme Declutterer. Everything I didn't absolutely love, went. OK, so I didn't absolutely love the vegetable peeler, or that plastic caddy that the sink brushes live in, but they are very useful, so I let them stay. I was brutal. You know how they say you only wear ten percent of your wardrobe? I threw out the other ninety percent. I got rid of  books which was like giving away the children (well, no, not really, let's not get carried away. It was hard though). I gave away wedding presents, off loaded furniture that was not quite right and ruthlessly thinned out the toys, the games, the art supplies and the thousand other items that I had hitherto believed necessary to my existence. I don't think I have regretted a single item that went out my front door. It was very liberating.

The most exciting thing about the entire project is that none of that stuff has come back. I was a little worried at first, that when I gained more house space, stuff would creep back in. In my mind, stuff had a kind of menacing quality about it, like triffids, or wolves at the gate. Then it occurred to me that in order for stuff to invade, I would have to let it in, and that even before that, I would have to actively go out and get it. So I stopped going out to the shops. I have absolutely no self control in a shop, and things just call to me with their wicked siren songs. For months and months I didn't go in to any shops at all, except to buy food, and tedious renovating items like taps and light fittings, and the odd pair of shoes for the children. And by the time I was forced to go into actual interesting shops because there were holes in the sheets and all the coffee mugs had chips in, the spell was broken. Things in shops are just things, they won't solve problems or make dreams come true. I am finally able to look at a covetable pretty thing and appreciate it and not want to take it home. I even see interesting books in op shops and think, 'Oh, I'll look for that in the library.' It's not about the price, it's about not continuing the endless treadmill of consumption. It's about not purchasing on impulse, but taking weeks to contemplate and plan exactly what I want and need, then the joy of finding the exact thing after further weeks of searching, and the satisfaction of having what I need and no more. In fact, now I think about it, I am turning into a Nanna prematurely. Luckily I have time for afternoon naps, because I won't be popping out to the shops..

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