What Goes Around

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I’m having a bit of a crises of conscience.

I can’t help but wonder if I am contributing to the whole stuff deal by having a small space in an antique store. Am I perpetuating the very thing I’m attempting to control or eliminate in my own life? The collection of stuff?

I’d like to think in this whole big drama we call The Stuff Show, that I am on the right side of things. I see myself as a mild and minor protagonist. I am not heroic for saving someone else’s trash and converting it into treasure, I’m simply a cog in the wheel of a much larger machine.

I know that hoarders shop antique stores. But I also know there are people like me who appreciate pieces of furniture and useful items like vintage mixing bowls or an old paint splattered ladder and will purchase items judiciously after careful consideration.

There is so much stuff and most of us are just moving it from here to there. Too much of it is getting moved from here to the dump. Or tossed because the newer better thing has just come on the market.

In my own way I like to feel like I am helping to preserve history. The older I get the simpler I want things and so many of these items I buy and sell have magnificent stories. For instance I love the scarred kitchen table that can go on and on about the peas that have been shelled and corn that has been shucked at its side. It explains that many of its scars are from the slip of a knife off the cutting board or a pot placed on its surface before it was cool. The chair with the sagging seat talks in hushed tones about the many visitors it has had whereas the silver plated hand mirror would never say a thing about the secrets of others.

I don’t for a minute believe I am setting a bad example by repurposing or reselling cast off items. I am not creating a new problem. And I don’t believe I’m adding to one.

Put simply, I find neglected and forgotten items, love them back to health and offer them back out to the world. I am feeding consumerism and that part feels a bit inelegant, but I am not creating a need that doesn’t exist. I cannot control the habits of others. I am suggesting that if you need an item, check an antique store first, or a thrift store, or your own closets and drawers.

In The Stuff Show, I am a minor foot soldier on the team of good intentions. The Generals are the minimalists and the ocean cleaners and the zero wasters. I’m hopeful that we can all work together to create a minimally furnished world of beautifully patinaed treasures.

Purge Surge

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The hubs and I went on a little road trip. It was just on the other side of 24 hours and a little over two hours away. But it created space. Head space and physical distance.

It’s true that wherever you go there you are, but just a short jaunt away for an overnight can dramatically shift perspective. You take your issues, prejudices, preferences and attitude with you, but not all your stuff. And stuff is something we’ve been working on greatly reducing.

Well, I have.

My husband flirts with hoarding, he calls it collecting, but tomato, tomahto I say. I keep him and his accumulation of stuff contained to the dining room and most of the garage. I have put up curtains on the opening to the dining room so I can close them and pretend there’s something magical behind them rather than the glut of books and paper that actually are. I also insist on parking in the garage so that keeps the clutter somewhat in check there.

But lately these two spaces seem to be overwhelming him, swallowing him. What was once his safe haven has become the bane of his existence.

Somehow, some where between home, the west coast of Florida and back home again he began to see what I was seeing and everything shifted.

We have a few antique spaces between us. He deals mostly in paper, I lean toward dark, primitive wood and creamy white things. I have one shelf in the garage where I keep “back stock”, he has those other two rooms. And sometimes things slip into the living room or a box is placed in the guest room “just for now.”

By the time we got home he couldn’t wait to tear through the garage and box things up for Good Will, recycle cardboard that seems to be breeding and drop well-intentioned craft project supplies off at the nearby artist studio. So far he has filled our enormous recycle bin (you could easily fit three bodies in there), a good portion of the trash can and dispersed a car load of things to new and grateful recipients.

And suddenly I can breathe better, he has more energy and those rooms seem a tiny bit brighter.

The trick, of course, is maintenance. Not bringing more in, not holding onto things just in case. Part of his shift in perspective is due to yoga. Not so much the postures, although he does do those, but more the philosophy that I’ve been sharing with him – in particular the Yamas and Niyamas – kind of the ten commandments of yoga.

There are pages and pages and pages that could be filled with the wisdom of these 10 tenets, but for now, I’ll share just the one that seemed to cause his head to tilt in that dog-just-heard-a-whistle-no-one-else-can-hear kind of way.

Asteya – non-stealing. It means exactly what it sounds like, don’t take other people’s stuff, but it has more meat on it than that. We steal time from others by being perpetually late (it’s not just how you are, unless how you are is rude, and I bet you’re not really). We steal joy from others by complaining or casting aspersions on their happy news. We steal the spotlight or thunder from others by sharing their news to others before they have a chance. We steal peace from others by talking incessantly, gossiping or intentionally creating conflict. Read: drama.

You get the picture.

In addition, when we take things we don’t really need and when we hold onto things because we might need them one day, we are robbing others of the opportunity to use what we’re squirreling away. There is a saxophone sitting in my garage and it has been there for 17 years. It has been unplayed for over thirty. Surely some young kid could totally benefit from a used or donated instrument.

It may have been that last statement that pushed the purge into action. Hoarder, pack rat or squirrel, whatever he is, above all else he is kind and he cares about the joy and artistry of others. I’m sure the sax will find its way to a new appreciative owner.

It’s just day one of the big push, but it is impressive and it is inspiring me back into action.