The Buddha, The Dharma, The Sangha

"Spiritual powers and their wondrous functioning--hauling water and carrying firewood." --Layman Pang, upon his realization

Friday, May 29, 2009

Voluntary Simplicity, Stuff & Double-Stuf Oreos

After 55 years of living life, I have loads of stuff.
Probably many of us do, and if you have or have had children, you can add their stuff to yours, especially if they have grown up and left home, and not transfered their stuff to their new place.
Loads of stuff.
Like Oreo Double Stufs, double the cream just doesn't make a better Oreo. But Nabisco thought it would, and even though we might choose the Double Stufs once or twice over the single stuffs, it's always a let down. They really don't taste any better.
Sometimes, when I think about what is stuffed into my house, I get a little wild eyed and begin a flurry of shedding something, anything!
I fill up a couple of garbage bags with clothing no one has worn in years and donate to Goodwill. I take a stack of little-used books across the street to the public library, which seems to have a perpetual book sale going on. I threaten the grown children with putting stuff up on eBay if they don't come take their electric guitar/longboard skateboard/Breyer horse stable and many plastic horses/ and all the goodies that go along with their former passions. Alas, to no avail.
We still hang on to stuff.
Recently I've been considering a trendy approach to all this stuff-collecting; Voluntary Simplicity.
In my parent's generation, this would be called Voluntary Common Sense & Frugal Living (DUH), and I know I grew up with friends who might then have called it in-Voluntary Lower Middle Class and no-I-don't-have-$100.00-for-a-pair-of-&$%#@!*&
And surely, there were many back to the earth friends from the 70s who were following that trend religiously, and still do.
So it occurs to me that Voluntary Simplicity is really a kindly concept for those of us who have always been super consumers, who never really "get it" when, occasionally, we are overdrawn at the bank or behind on our bills, even though we have some kick-ass outfits hanging in the closet!
Hmmmm, well, a little like me at times....
And with an economic "down turn" grinding away at everyone's wallet, Voluntary Simplicity has become more of a necessity.
But even without a recession, how much is enough?
When do we know if we have enough, and what does it mean to go without?
Is there a beginning and ending point to casual wants, or, after we have sated our need for food, shelter and safety, does want have to continue unabated?
Where or what is the root of our casual wants and desires?

The hunter-gatherer in me loves to search for the best bargain, and as if dragging sustenance home from the field, I've dragged home shoes, bags, jackets, books, magazines, and toys, thinking that I could somehow satisfy the drive to have enough--but if we're honest with ourselves, we recognize that sneaking feeling that creeps in a day or two later when we open the closet and notice many things are neglected and pushed to the side for the comfortable funky sandals or the softly worn T shirt that still has our soccer team number on the back.
We see that we have 6 pairs of black capris and a dozen "cute" shoes that never fit properly. We notice that there are interesting bags to carry our stuff around in, but they never get used because they are too heavy/the wrong color/leather/not leather/for the wrong season. Our books stare back at us from the stuffed bookcase, most of which will never be re-read, when only just across the street (in my case), the public library has everything I could ever read.

So, Voluntary Simplicity.
This is where I am beginning:

1. Eat all the food in the refrigerator that I buy.
2. With the exception of sox & underwear, buy NOTHING NEW.
3. Use the public library
4. Park the car & walk
5. Eat at home (all that stuff in the fridge) instead of out.
6. Invite friends over for Pot Luck (all that stuff in the fridge).
7. Barter, lend, borrow
8. Use it up or use it until it wears out.
9. Take It One Day At A Time!
10. Find others to join me and have fun with it.

Care to join me?


Rosetung said...

I'm SOOO joining you! cuz I am moving soon. but I am excited to simplify! it totally requires the right mindset, the right questions to self to accept giving up certain clothes and books. but damn it feels good to feel lighter.
i do find lately that cravings for shiny pretty new things are much lower the more i feel fulfillment from within. and knowing i can't be spending or collecting before a big move helps supress those desires too... but i dooo have some guilt for being that grown up kid who uses the 'rents home for storage. ha...
fun post, brookie! xo, j.

Brookie said...

Good J, we're off and running then with our VS Club.
Check in to let me know how you are doing!
hearts & flowers, B

Anonymous said...

I'll definitely join. I didn't bring much with me to Texas, but even when I just completed a little move across town I went through all my clothes and gave away two bags that I hadn't worn all summer/year and sold all the novels I had collected over the past school year back to Half Price Books. A good feeling.

Brookie said...

My Dear Texas Bluebell, I suspect you've never been a rampant collector of stuff--remember, I helped you stuff your stuff into your car! so I know how much stuff you have.
However, that makes 3 of us on the Voluntary Simplicity path.
Let's try this for the summer, and please let me know what you are doing that feels "right".

Karen Anne said...

Okay...I'll join since I've been trying to do a similar vow on my own and company is always nice - 'specially Brookie company! But not collecting books - ouch - man, that is REALLY a hard concept to get my brain around...AUGH!

Brookie said...

Okay, well, ummmm, maybe there are some things that we just cannot do without--I don't think this should be an extreme sport!
Soooo, if book collecting is in the blood, why not just collect gently used books, such as those at the Carlisle Library Bookery, where you really can find nice volumes in every catagory.
I even found a cassette of kittens singing Christmas carols, and it cost just a dime!
Couldn't pass that one up!
Now I think that sort of "Nothing New" or "Voluntary Simplicity" is okay.

Jenna said...

I am utterly flabbergasted (and a bit horrified) by how much STUFF has accumulated in my house in the two short years I've lived here. Not to mention the embarrassing amount of junk still lurking around my parents' attic/basement/guest room closet (yeah, I'm *that* kid).

I've been really wanting to pare down my belongings and simplify my living space, and it'll be easier knowing the rest of you are doing the count me in! :)

Brookie said...

Ah Yes, *that* Kid!
Look for another post soon about some of the great ways to recycle, re-gift,'s all about nothing new, since there is so much out there free of charge or nearly new and cheap.
Thanks for your comment!