Today I watched people trawling up and down the street, collecting unwanted wares and treasures from the side of the road. It is that time of the year again – the council clean up!
All the collectors are out hoping for that special find in a sea of trash.
We are very much in a use – discard – replace lifestyle so I suppose it is a good thing that people are out reusing and rescuing other people’s trash.
There were some really good items being thrown out.
I have been thinking quite often of late how I need less ‘stuff’.
(Aside from today because I grabbed this cute dolls house to restore for my niece!)
I used to buy HEAPS of ‘stuff’ ALL the time.
I used to ‘go shopping’ like it was a sport.
But now, I am getting more on the wavelength that less is more.
Our apartment is on the small side (but that is what you get for living at the beach).
When we moved from my Mum and Dad’s granny flat we thought we had so much space.
But over the last two years in the clutter has slowly crept.
Bikes, spearfishing equipment and luggage has spawned off the walls of the garage.
Beach chairs now occupy our laundry, and our second bedroom has become the husbands ‘office’ complete with a MASSIVE filing cabinet (full of junk but apparently he needs everything that is in there) and piles of magazines for ‘inspiration’. Add clothes to the mix from shopping trips overseas and the ‘cat nursery’ that is now our lounge-room our little apartment is becoming quite full.
What is the point of hanging on to all this stuff?
Especially things that we HAVE NOT LOOKED AT IN SIX MONTHS.
And what is the answer to this cluttering of space that most of us have?
Buy a house for more space! Spend a million dollars!
Spend even more money filling up the extra rooms once you have them!
(And then pay off said house when you are 60 years old and all your kids have left home.)
For what purpose I am not so sure.
And now that I live within walking distance from the sand and the ocean, I think I value this more than space.
More people these days are embracing the minimalist movement opting to spend less money and living in smaller spaces. Or they are choosing to give their kids travel experiences rather than life in a big house in the burbs.
Maybe because I spent a lot of time in my past life working with people who hoard I find as I get older I am opting to live on the simpler side.
Associating your worth and your identity with ‘things’ is when collecting can become a problem. Hoarding is when it gets to the point when you think that things have value when they do not, you find you cannot part with things, and when people take away items from you it feels as though your soul is being crushed.
Recycling items or giving them to someone else even though you know the item is going to be used can become too hard.
Then you can end up in a situation like this.
I went to MANY places like this in my years of social work.
Yes I hear you, people who get to this stage have many issues. But not all of them are as unwell as you think. Some people have full time jobs and you would NEVER imagine if you met them on the street that they are living like this behind closed doors.
People can get to this point because they associate their self worth and value with collecting ‘stuff’ that you or I would find meaningless. Unlike the TV show it is not as simple as a skip bin, a trip to the tip and a TV crew to undo years and years of hoarding. (In my experience this leads to the person collecting all the stuff back that you took away PLUS more).
It takes months and months, or YEARS and A LOT OF trust and mental health support to recover. I worked with one person for two years before they made any real progress, and so many times I had the door slammed in my face before I could even get inside.
I argued for 40 minutes with someone who wanted to keep an empty Tic Tac packet.
Sounds crazy? Yes. BUT think about how hard it is to quit smoking, when you might have been doing that for 30 years? I bet you told people to piss off when they told you it was bad for you. I bet you needed some outside help. I bet you even had a few relapses. In stressful times, you might even still light up the odd ciggie or two.
After a lifetime of having ‘stuff’ to make you feel valued and protected, it can be pretty darn scary when someone tries to take it away from you.
Today as I reflect on my experiences and watch the collectors going up and down the street I make this promise to myself.
I PROMISE to value my life by the experiences and memories that I make instead of the ‘stuff’ I may possess.
How have you made your life simpler and less cluttered?