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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Living Simply is Not Simple

I'm discovering that it's way too easy to accumulate things.

I've been trying for a while now to reduce my possessions to a manageable amount, so that I can be free to travel around the world without the burden of stuff. But somehow more stuff just keeps appearing, cluttering up my space. My consumer habits have been surprisingly difficult to change, even though I really want to change them.

When I left the US, I had four different yard sales to get rid of all the stuff that I couldn't take with me on my journey. A lot of it was just junk that I had accumulated over the years, but it was still difficult to decide what to get rid of & what to keep.

The process was like peeling an onion. At first, I went through my house & found lots of things that I didn't use or didn't need & got rid of them. Once all of that was gone, I started to see more things that I could live without. Another pile of stuff formed. With that gone, yet more stuff presented itself as needless.

Perhaps as I went through the process of getting rid of things, my attitude toward my stuff started changing. What I thought I needed at the first go-round didn't seem so essential when I looked at it a second or third time. It was fun - scary, but exciting to let go of things, to test my own limitations, to find my boundaries - & I found that those boundaries kept changing as I peeled the onion.

After the Great Purge, I moved to Vietnam where I taught English. When I left there after seven months, I also left a mountain of stuff behind with one of my Vietnamese friends. She was astonished to see how much I was leaving with her - & so was I. Another layer peeled.

Now, after ten months in Shanghai, I look around my apartment & see lots of books, clothing, & other miscellaneous items that I didn't have when I arrived here. I don't have as much extraneous stuff as I did when I left Vietnam, & nowhere near the amount that I had when I left the US. Still, how is it possible that I've acquired so much in such a short time?

I really want to live with less stuff, but I find that it's just not that easy to do. I buy a stack of books, telling myself that I will be able to read them all before I need to move again, so it's okay. Then I do the same thing with something else - that cute sweater in the shop window (it's going to get cold here soon), or the colorful handmade shoulder bag (I need something to carry all those books in). It's so easy to add more things to the pile, especially if I stay in one place for a while.

Living simply just isn't that simple to do, but I haven't given up trying. It's a lengthy process extracting myself from under the pile of stuff. I'm still working on it, one layer of the onion at a time.


scott said...

Of course living simply, without stuff, is hard. It's what we do! Collect junk that is... :) Btw, if you haven't already feel free to jettison the whistle and book if you like. :)

Nancy Lewis said...

Never! I sent it home with my brother when he came to Vietnam. I'm thinking of taking it back to China when I go home in February :)

Chris said...

I know you are going to hate this idea, but... the 21st century! Consider joining it at some time! ;D


Nancy Lewis said...

Ebooks - I know! I totally need to get myself a Kindle. I downloaded Kindle for PC, but I can't cuddle up with my laptop to read before going to sleep. I'll have to look into that when I'm home in February.