Lately, my world has been all about the material.
My husband and I have been buried in renovations that have been dragging on since we purchased our house two-and-a-half years ago. I have this feeling, this sense of a rush, that we need to get these things done NOW. Who knows why, but I’ve learned from the coincidences that have happened throughout my life, not to ignore these instincts.
So, as my desk piles high with ignored obligations, and emails go unanswered (sorry!), I’ve been staining our back deck, helping install the new dining room carpet, and painting the mud room which J. busted his behind to finish drywalling during a heat wave.
The front steps have also gotten a fresh coat of paint, the gardens have been weeded (again), and I laid landscaping fabric and stones down under the front porch in order to stop the forest of dandelions and maple saplings and burdock with its sticky burs that likes to invade that small space.
I’ve also fallen under the spell of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, a book that, simplistically, advises people to keep only that which ‘sparks joy’.
At first, I flinched at the new-agey-ness of this, but coincidentally, I read this book after finishing A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki (my Goodreads review is very simple: God, I loved this book), in which Jiko, a 104-year-old Japanese Buddhist nun, thanks and praises and is kind to the objects in her life.
Ditto Marie Kondo, who advises people to greet their house upon returning home, to thank their hand-bag and empty it, in order to give it a break, etc.
I might not go that far, but I have realized a few things. One, like most of us, I have too much stuff.
Two, probably also like most of us, much of the items that I have in my life are there for reasons apart from appreciation (or because they give me joy). Like everybody else, I hold onto things because of guilt, because of the amount of money I paid for this thing that I never should have spent, because my ____ gave it to me and I can’t possibly give it away.
Despite this, I’ve so far managed to drag half a dozen garbage bags full of clothing to our second-hand shop in town, and am continually adding to a growing pile marked ‘Yard Sale.’
But what I like the most about this book is how Marie puts our relationship with objects into a perspective that is so very meaningful.
“The things we own are real,” she writes. “They exist here and now as a result of choices made in the past by no one other than ourselves. It is dangerous to ignore them or to discard them indiscriminately as if denying the choices we made… If we acknowledge our attachment to the past and our fears for the future by honestly looking at our possessions, we will be able to see what is really important to us.”
“If you are going to put your house in order, do it now.”