Several years ago, I was involved in a book study of Glenda Green’s “Love Without End.” Somehow the topic came around to clearing out household clutter and re-homing items we no longer wanted or needed.
That’s when our reading group leader, Deborah, passed along some wisdom that had helped her:
Never own more than you can love.
That really struck me. I’d never thought before about loving all of my possessions. Sure, there were clothing items I adored, a warm blanket my grandmother had made, an old saucepan that reminded me of my father, things like that. But I can’t say that I loved my salt shaker or my bathroom towels.
I’m in a constant battle with owning more than I can love. I suppose I am a bit of a pack rat, and I’m also the recipient of some less-than-ideal gift choices, which then I can’t get rid of because I’d just feel too guilty. So I have a silver pasta server that my step-mother’s mother gave me — even though I never use any silver service — and a lovely collection of antique doilies and handkerchiefs sitting unused, and growing in number, in a drawer.
I’m also apparently a magnet for books. Before I relocated cross-country, I got rid of nearly 2/3 of my large book collection, and it hasn’t taken me long to grow it back again. The road to hell is paved with good intentions, and I’ve had every intention of reading every one of those titles, at one point or another, though it’s more likely I’ll never get around to all of them.
At least I’m not paying for storage space somewhere. I no longer have an attic or basement to fill up with excess items, and my garage is pretty much clutter free, so I must be getting better about this.
Yet I’m reading here today — in “365 Ways to Live Green” — about reducing the need for facilities and other new construction.
In this endless pursuit of “Bigger! Better! Faster!” we’re often crowding ourselves right out of our homes. We think we need a bigger TV to watch bigger, more exciting programming. But then the room is too small, so we get a new room, in a new home. But then the TV is too small. To keep up with the demand, new factories have to be built to make the TVs — or these days, with most electronics being manufactured overseas, it’s more about building bigger warehouses and stores — and more (and bigger) new homes keep going up.
It’s a spiral of increasing consumption that only stops when we say, “Enough!” and choose to do something about it.
(By the way, there’s no chance we’re experiencing such a population boom so as to justify the rate of new housing and commercial construction. Older buildings are instead being abandoned in this pursuit of bigger and new construction, with fields being cleared, trees felled and wildlife chased away. The environment is paying for our insatiable expansion, but that’s another discussion.)
I’m looking around my space here, realizing it’s time for some more de-cluttering. It’s pretty much always time for de-cluttering, to be honest. How much do I really need to live comfortably, and to get my work done efficiently? I don’t know that I’ll ever get down to the point of deciding whether or not I truly love each and every one of my pillowcases or highlighter pens, but that idea of honestly gauging whether or not something is going to be cherished and utilized in my home has helped me to release at least some of what I don’t really want or need.
If we stopped amassing so many possessions, we might become more satisfied with what we already have. We would no longer be slaves to our own materialistic hungers, and we might be able to begin to slow down the damaging expansion, perhaps looking to retool the facilities and infrastructure that already exist rather than continuing our constant craving for more.
We’d have less to keep track of, less to repair and maintain — but more attention to give, and more love to share.