I am Stuff/ We Are Stuff: Decrapifying
I am an ecologically groovy kind of 67-year-old white middle-class male. By politics, I am a socialist. I believe in free universal health care: housing for all: strict licensing and gun control: free college, a vocational school for all: all corporations pay all of their taxes without deductions: Ending the welfare state for the military-industrial mafia, and that is only start of my platform as the next Presidential candidate for the Socialist Party. As a socialist, I should be a paragon of modesty, though that is not true.
Stuff! For these past fifty years, I have, through intention and accident, accumulated a lot of stuff. It is like a purse or a tool bag. The bigger your bag –, the more stuff you have. We have a roomy, comfortable home in Vermont; I have a workshop for home repairs, a large art studio, and a 1,000 s f living space. I also have hundreds of books of all kinds and sizes, medical books from my medical practice, poetry and literature books galore, and even books in Persian, which I don’t read. I like my books. They are my friends, neatly tucked into my bookshelves. But it is all, stuff! Too much wonderful stuff.
My closet is filled with shirts and clothes that I have no idea how most of those clothes showed up there – gifts from my wife, friends, and others. I rarely buy new clothes, yet the clothes have just shown up.
In my upsizing to the next phase of my life, I need a major de-crapification. My tool and workshop with all my house repair stuff. Drills, saws, hammers, and enough stuff to build a house. There are cans of paints, solvents, cleaners, brushes, and enough stuff for a hardware store. I got an email that there is a gizmo that will scan books and images into a jpeg file. I was about to buy it when I thought – damn! My camera can do the same thing! Why am I so addicted to this stuff binge?
I’ve been emptying a huge crate of old letters, cards, and notes from the past fifty years for the past few days. One set of letters is from a girl I was in a philosophy class with. She was the smartest person in the class, but she was quiet and only spoke when she had something important to say. I have our notes and letters from nearly fifty years ago. In the way that people fall in love in their twenties, we were in love and filled with much ardor. I had some of her first philosophy papers. On a whim, I searched the internet and found out that she had become a philosophy professor in Mexico. I was so proud of her for continuing her studies and ordered one of her books.
Most of the letters were routine hello and updates, but some were so important at various points in my life. When I was in the Navy and struggling with alcohol and emotional issues, I became friendly with family in Florida, a Navy career man, and his incredibly loving and supportive family. I helped his family while recovering from a heart attack, and they helped support me. I felt the love and care of all the cards and letters, trivial and otherwise. In the years to come, I will open this box of love if I should feel down and blue. Yes, there will be some perfumed letters (yes, they really did exist). The fragrance of the perfume remains. But more significantly, all the love, concern, guidance, support, and insights will lift my spirits. In opening that box of letters in the years to come, I believe it will be like the flood of memories when you smell Bazooka Bubble gum, bringing back all those memories. Or for me, when I was a kid in Seville, every corner pastry shop made its unique pastry. When I was last in Seville, I went to my old neighborhood and bought a tiny powdery anise pastry, and as soon as I tasted it, it brought me back to my childhood.
Today, I stacked and arranged the letters and cards and taped the box. It will stay in storage, but those memories are so vibrant.
Skipping stones – I spent a half-hour by Blue Heron Pond with two little boys and their dad. We were skipping stones. Is that one of the oldest games? I hadn’t done that in ages. I was playing with these 7 and 8-year-old boys and skipping stones. The beauty of Blue Heron Pond fills my soul with wonder and joy.
Blue Heron Pond- it is my soul. Not in hyperbole, but in reality. This magnificent sanctuary in Southern Vermont has fueled my creative work over the past twenty-five years. Sadly, our home has become too big to keep up, and the taxes in Brattleboro keep escalating. Our town has an appetite for an electric Rolls Royce but only a budget for a used Kia.
As much as I love this beautiful treasure, we know it is time for the next step and the next third of our lives. At sixty-eight, we could hang on to our home in Vermont, but it is time, and we want to travel more. I need less responsibility, fewer things to own, and more time for my creative work.
When I left the Navy fifty years ago, I had a duffle bag of clothes, and that was my worldly possessions. I sometimes hunger for that level of simplicity. When traveling with a suitcase and guitar, I realize that is all I need. The rest of this beautiful stuff and clutter is merely beautiful stuff and clutter.
I will probably never have the Thoreau simple life of a cabin on Walden Pond, but I can radically slenderize my life. Serendipitously now, I am losing weight, and in my creative work, I am taking a break and considering my directions into 2022 and 20233. It is my spring cleaning.
For younger people who have very little stuff, I encourage you to keep your life as simple and as fluid as possible.
Now, we are upsizing our dreams and downsizing the clutter. Alas, we are probably only at 75% of what we need to declutter. Every day it is a small accomplishment. At the beginning of the week, I completely emptied one room downstairs, cleaned it up, and repainted it
Onward to upsizing our dreams and decluttering