Sunday, August 7, 2011

The End of Summer and the Beginning of a New Life

So I know it's been a while. I think I have trouble talking about experiences like working abroad while I'm over there working. That is, if i don't have easy access to internet and a computer, then I probably won't write any of it down. so I apologize for the lack of info about where I've been the past few months, and I will warn you that I may never post those stories, simply because they're done, and many of you have heard them already.

GYV was wonderful, with wonderful people, wonderful participants, and wonderful food. Everything was great, and I loved it all. I'm not going to go into too much detail here, out of respect for others' privacy, but the summer was definitely a good one.

At the moment, though, I'm sitting in Rhode Island thinking about how I'm going to get my stuff out to Chicago when I move out there on Wednesday. I'm flying out and will ship whatever I can't fit, but that's not my main issue. My main issue is that I have so much stuff that I don't need, and I need to figure out what to do with it all.

Which leads me to something I've been thinking about since the Philippines. While there, we lived in a small, two-bedroom house with minimal furniture and possessions. They had enough, but not a lot. And yet, everyone was happy. Not that they were happy all the time or that they didn't have troubles of their own, there was plenty of that. But they were content with the stuff that they had, and so were we. So when I came back here and realized exactly how much stuff I have - and I don't have much my American standards - I wondered why I had so much stuff that I didn't need in the first place. The same held true in GYV, living with minimal things and being awed at the amount of stuff I have now that I'm home. And then I was in Chicago wondering how in the world I was going to move all my stuff and realizing that I couldn't and I was sad at the idea. I was upset mostly because I have spent a lot of money on my stuff and much of it is household goods that I hoped to use for years, not just a few months. And this morning I watched the story of stuff ( and agreeing with everything that was said and being inspired to minimize my possessions. And then I was kicking myself, because I had been fine with using minimal possessions before I got home, and now I'm suddenly upset at the idea of minimizing my possessions.

One of the things I'm realizing now, though, is that everything is impermanent, everything changes. In five years time I could move to Timbuktu and have to re-minimize my stuff to move out there. In a year, my apartment could catch fire and everything I own could go up in flames, forcing me to start again (though I desperately hope that doesn't happen). I could be in an accident tomorrow that destroys the use of my legs. Or I might die sooner than I thought. You can never predict the future. So if I bought a nice table last October with the intention of using it for years, I couldn't know that my method for getting it to Chicago would fail. Heck, I didn't even know where I was going at that point. I can't predict the future.

And so one thing I've been thinking is to live a minimalist life. I tend to attach sentimental value to things, and since I moved every week as a kid, I associated certain possessions with home rather than a place. I didn't want to throw away old things in case I somehow lost that memory. Yet, when I travel, I am notoriously bad and bringing back souvenirs because I feel that photos and stories are enough. Mostly, I just don't have room in my suitcase. I have never taken that philosophy into my everyday life, though, and I should. So starting now, I'm going to go through all my stuff, decide what I really need, and get rid of the rest. Donate it to people who could really use it. Find some way to get rid of it that doesn't involve just throwing it away, because if I have to get rid of it, I'd rather find a way to do it with the most possible gain.

Which begs the question of all of you: How much stuff do you have that you don't need or use? Are there people who do need those things? Could you survive on what you need alone, with a few personal possessions like photo albums or a favorite knickknack? I'm going to try, and I hope you try as well. It doesn't have to be drastic, but maybe take a chance to take stock of what you have, and whether you really need all that stuff. Then watch the story of stuff. That's my challenge to you today.

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