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Monthly Archives: November 2012

Enough Stuffing

I have decided to put my money where my mouth is and NOT participate in the buying frenzy on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. After years of reading about voluntary simplicity and the unintentional consequences of consumerism, I’m determined to only buy absolute essentials. It is easier said than done.

First, I have to dodge all of the tempting and sometimes ludicrous on-line ads that are so clearly focused on “stuff” I usually like (i.e., am addicted to). Ads for books, yarn, fabric, music, and hand cream bombard me. I have a stash of all of the above and could most likely open my own store. Yet, those ads are so enticing. They know what they’re doing, and their data mining usually pays off, but not this time.

I’m determined to make minimalism work and stop the whole cycle of having “TOOOOOO MUCH STUFF”. That means buying only what we really need. What a new concept! What do I really need????  In the grocery store, it means buying one package of tofu, not four. It’s not purchasing yet another toy for the cat… or more skeins of yarn to keep the other zillion company in my studio. It means more frequent trips to the Falmouth Public Library instead of filling up my bookshelves with bought books that I’ll only scan. I will buy a pomegranate or two, but not six or seven.

My buying habits reveal that I live by the “warehouse” concept, not the “buy as you use” system. At any time of the day or the year, I probably have what I “need” to complete any ridiculous task I dream up. I do think that I will most likely be dead before everything is used up and that’s rather pathetic. What would my widower husband do with enough yarn to make 47 sweaters?

This epiphany became apparent when we moved. I thought I’d need ten boxes to empty out a room; in reality it was thirty, ok really forty. There was a lot of stuff I had amassed. It was a physical sign that I couldn’t ignore. Yes, we destashed, gave to charities, to friends and to the recycle center, but the message was there in bold print. There’s too much stuff.

The solution requires halting the incoming. Since November 1, I’ve been diligent in only purchasing essentials, and I’m being fairly strict on my definition of essentials. Yes to healthy food, utilities and medical expenses; No to anything I really can do without. I’ve been living by the World War II adage, “Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.” Most of my Christmas gift giving will be handmade from my fabulous stash. It’s actually kind of fun to re-discover the interesting fiber, beads, and creative findings in my studio. I recently saw an ad for a gorgeous skein of yarn that would be absolutely perfect for a hat or socks for either daughter… my heart raced—it was sooo perfect. Then I rummaged through studio and found that I already had three skeins of that exact same yarn. Hmmmmm,.. embarassing and eye-opening

So wish me luck as I attempt this year-long journey of minimalism and voluntary simplicity. I actually am finding it quite exciting, and hope it will become a way of life. I will keep you posted on my progress and would love to hear how you’re dealing with this issue. In the meantime, here’s George Carlin’s bit on “Stuff”. Don’t pay attention to the ad!!!

Branching Out

Today’s walk had me drawn to the trees along the way. Maybe Sandy has me looking at them differently than before the high winds, uprooted trees and thick timbers along the roadside.

Gnarly Toes

I especially like gnarly trunks that have long, weird toes digging into the earth. This one seems to say,” Go ahead, make my day, try to uproot me”.

Tall and Lean

Some seem so elegant with naked limbs reaching skyward, with leaves long gone. Its branches are in perfect form, and it stands strong.

Six Birches, One Trunk

This birch looks like it had ADD when it was a seedling. It shot up in six different directions simultaneously and created an oddly beautiful sculpture. I love how irregular it is.

These daily walks manage to cross-pollinate various segments of my life. I walk for exercise, to try to get in shape and keep healthy. The walks end up clearing my mind and encouraging all kinds of new ideas for writing, reading, art and life in general. It’s an opportunity to have a dialogue with my husband or to just enjoy the quiet. Today, it slowed my world down and let me look at the trees and make connections.

Quick Pix/Daily Walk

The only new, blue flower amidst fall colors

Survived transplanting, Sandy and a Nor’easter.

Makes me forget I’m exercising…

Re-thinking Thanksgiving 2012

As is often the case, my daughters are responsible for me making changes in my standard operating procedures. The latest is re-thinking Thanksgiving. In the past, this day of thanks has been known for an overabundance of food, a lot of traffic on the roads coming and going, and long afternoon naps after overdoing the whole routine. There was always an oversized turkey on the table and too much of everything else. And it was fun.

This year, the kids raised some interesting questions and suggested options:

  1. Can this not be an overindulgent food fest? How about regular healthy, simple meals and more time to relax together?
  2. How can we make new traditions for this celebration that takes into account who we are and what we value?
  3. Does it make sense to hit the roads via car or bus and deal with unmanageable traffic? Let’s have a family get-together on another day and do it our way.

So we’re in the process of re-creating the holiday or perhaps making a new one. I’m excited about finding a way to make this new celebration work. As a kid, I never questioned how colonization affected the Native Americans. Without being disgustingly politically correct, I do think about this issue and have doubts about celebrating the takeover. I think I need to do some more reading about this and understand what really happened in 1621 and what were the intended and unintended consequences.

It seems that the first Thanksgiving was in appreciation of not starving during that difficult year of survival in a new land. Then it grew and grew and grew… more food on the table, larger venues, over the top in so many ways. Even the average size of the turkey has exploded; anything less than 25 pounds looks like a Cornish hen. An assortment of pies now await on the sidebar, not just the one cherished pumpkin or apple treat. Thanksgiving is on steroids, and it’s less satisfying, even though we’re stuffed.

I’m thinking that reshaping this holiday does fit into my quest for simplicity and pared down living. I don’t like what Thanksgiving has become, and it’s time for a change. Stripping away the excess and recalibrating the holiday is in order. For us, that will mean treating food as healthy fuel. It also will be quality time together without stressful travel.  We’ll find a creative project to work on together… maybe hats and scarves for the homeless or birdfeeders for the feathered critters. Needless to say, we won’t be hustling out in the week hours on Black Friday to hit the sales. We’re gravitating back to basics, and I’m thrilled that we’re doing it as a family. That’s something to be thankful about.