Thursday, June 29, 2006

In search of simplicity

This has been one of the rottenest years on record for me personally. Physically, mentally, spiritually, financially…just plain rotten. My take on 2006 to date is basically, “Check, please!”

I just want to leave now. Be done with this year. Let it slide into the rearview mirror and never speak of it again.

Things have been too complex, too complicated, too…noisy. It seems as though we are in a constant state of turmoil around here. Trips to Disneyland, or to visit grandparents, off to a wedding over here, a birthday party over there…too busy for this, too busy for that, too much to buy, too little cash. Debts rising, assets sinking…wanting to work, enjoying my work, but suffering from the vague feeling that I’m losing all sense of familial balance.

All of which comes together in a loud cry of, “I wish things were simpler, like they were in the good old days!!”

Funny thing, simplicity. Such a gentle little word. It conjures up pastoral scenes, doesn’t it? Lazy days reading books in the park. Living in a little cottage by the sea, watching the ships sailing along, eating our porridge by the flickering oil lamp…aaaaaah. Peace, quiet, tranquility, the bounty that is ‘enough’…

Of course, we couldn’t possibly have it, not at this particular time. Because, see, we’re working? Which means we simply must have the car payment and the mortgage and the daycare costs and the frantic rushing from Hither to Yon and the dry cleaning bill and the maid service and dinner out a couple times a week because I don’t have time to cook WHO may I ask has time to cook these days…?

We see it as not having any choice. Can’t change society, right? And we live in a society of specialized ringtones to let you know in advance which friend is calling, a world of constant need creation and fulfillment.

We are, in short, owned by our luxuries.

They build on each other. You start with one small thing. I’m going to get a latte at Starbucks this morning, a ‘special treat’. Next thing you know…you’ve got a two-latte-a-day habit formed. And you feel you must have them. If you decide to give them up, you’re ‘deprived’.

From socks to magazine subscriptions, we feel as though saying ‘no’ to anything we have a hankering for is somehow denying us something precious.

But of course, it also becomes overwhelming. We have so much stuff to store, so many places to go, so many things to see…we become exhausted by it and then we shriek that we want some damned simplicity.

Then we get a subscription to Real Simple magazine and, a few cunning (and expensive) organizational tips later, we’re back where we were. Drowning in things we can’t live with, or without.

Can you tell I’m a bit disgusted right now?

Oh my yes. Disgusted does not begin to cover it. I’m about half ready to pull up stakes, buy a cabin in the middle of the woods in Montana and refuse to get electricity or a working telephone. I’m so tired of all the noise, the demands on my time and energy.


All kidding aside, I’ve been pondering trying to get a healthy dose of simplicity into my life lately. How to balance needs and wants, how to shut down the madness that our lives have become in the last year.

I’m looking for some simplicity – and it isn’t as easy to find as you might think. Google ‘voluntary simplicity’. Go ahead. I’ll wait.

See what I mean? Holy carp, people! Next you’ll be telling me I need to live nekkid in the woods eating nothing but dirt! Geez. It’s like the Living Below Your Means fanatics, who get all sniffy if you commit such horrors as buying clothes at retail, or spend $50 on a wedding present you could have made yourself in only sixteen hours using recycled materials!

So I sifted through the sources and I found very little that I felt would help me right now. Because I don’t want to give up my job and live the life of the income-free a-la “Your Money or Your Life”; I don’t want to downsize us into a tiny little house, or tell my children we’re going to go live on a llama farm in Istanbul (do they have llama farms in Istanbul?) ‘for a while’.

All I want is a little more freedom. From all this…stuff. I want to have only what we need, and a few things we want. Nothing more. No clutter. No ‘noise’.


Well. Being that I am a rebel without a pause, I’m going to forge my own trail. Because I really am tired of being owned by such things as acrylic fingernails and cable television, and sick of all the rush and bother around me. I’m tired of not having any money, when in point of fact I’m making very good money thank-you-very-much.

Buckle up, Denizens. Mommy’s on another rampage, and things may get bumpy…


Very Herodotus said...

I think when you have kids and a job, there is always some noise. Some clutter is inevitable; it's just a matter of figuring out how much clutter you're willing to live with.

My kids were using our dining room as the toy room until we could get the basement redone. Now that the basement is done, there are toys in the basement and in the dining room. I didn't fix anything! I made the problem worse.

I grew up in a family of seven. We had no basement and no garage in our four bedroom house. I shared a room with my sister, who is eight years older. This room had one standard sized closet in it. All my stuff and all her stuff had to fit in that closet. We were not allowed to leave toys out downstairs in the living areas. If it didn't fit on my two shelves in the closet, I couldn't have it. I specifically remember in the weeks before Christmas I would go through my toys, determining what to keep and what to get rid of to make room for my impending Christmas loot. And, honestly, I was happy! I loved all my toys and thought carefully about which ones I wanted the most.

I need to instill this in my kids now. But there is so much that needs to be "gotten rid of". There are boxes and boxes of toys that never get played with, or even looked at. It is gluttony.

Mother of Chaos said...

LOL - you know, it isn't the physical noise that gets to me. (Well, that's a big old fat lie - sometimes I just want to stuff my fingers in my ears and yell, "LA LA LA LA I CAN'T HEAR ANY OF YOU! LA!! LA!! LA!!!!)

It's the MENTAL noise that's driving me up a tree. It's like I'm being hit all day, all night, with clamoring voices: Buy me! Pay for me! Dust me! Store me! Get an accessory for me!

Oh dear God. I think it's...oh say it ain't so...I think we've got...affluenza!!!!!


21st Century Mom said...

I know what you mean! I live in an older neighborhood (sub divided in the late 40s/early 50s) full of 1500-1800 sq.ft. houses that held families of 5 to 7 people. Today, a significant number of these houses have or are undergoing a doubling in size to accomdate families of half that size because you know, must have open kitchen/living area with media center, must have master room with bath room big enough to hold a party in, each kid must have his/her own room, must have storage.... blah, blah, blah. I have resisted and lo and behold the kids are all moving out and the 3 bedroom 2 bath 1800 sq ft. house is starting to get really big. Booyah!

Good luck with the life re-org. It ain't easy.