The Thing About “Stuff”…

As most people know, I recently moved after 15 years in the same house.  We literally took truckloads of donations to the mercy mission and put out bags and bags of trash for what we couldn’t salvage.  I moved into that house in 2000 and even though I had lost everything in a fire 6 years before as well as been screwed over in a divorce, somewhere and somehow the entire house  was stuffed with ‘stuff’.  My husband moved into this house with me in 2008 but he didn’t bring a lot with him, mostly sentimental things he had kept over the years and some odds and ends furniture and tools.

Fifteen years of gifts, shopping, inheriting heirlooms and just in general being given stuff that family members no longer wanted and were sure we could use.  Throw in the fact that my kids are now adults and one had moved home from college bringing back all her stuff.  I always prided myself on being able to donate things I am not using.  I would periodically go through my clothes and belongings to weed out items that I was no longer using.  However, I wasn’t as ruthless as I had believed.

When we started seriously going through what we owned, the thought of having to move it to a new house gave us the motivation to really cull the herd of possessions that had accumulated over the years.   Odds and ends that I had earmarked sentimental but could no longer remember for the life of me why they were sentimental got donated for someone else to use.  I went through a kitchen gadget phase.  Quesadilla maker?  A wok? Something I no longer remember what it was to be used for?  All went into the donation pile.  Clothes that I had before my second marriage ended?  Donated or tossed if they were worn out.  The fifth and six set of nesting mixing bowls?  Donate.  Fifteen pie plates?  Saved my favorite few and donated the rest.  Since when am I ever going to make fifteen pies at once?  Rusty old scratched and dented cookie sheets?  Tossed.  I’m not sure what I thought I was going to do with those.

You get the idea.  Moving into the new house, we had so many boxes even after our ruthless purge.  We have made a pledge that we would never get like that again where we have so much stuff that we can’t even move in our house.  If something comes in, the something goes out.  I find having a house with space, limited knick knacks and no clutter makes me happier than one with a bunch of crap teetering around me, threatening to collapse at any time.  So far, I have only found a few minor things I missed but was easily able to make due with something else or nothing at all.  It is nice to open my kitchen drawers and not have to dig for 10 minutes looking for that one small thing.  It’s lying right there in the open not buried under a menagerie of wood, plastic and metal doo dads.  Though I will admit my “junk drawer” is full already.  I need to go through it and relocate some of it to a different place, probably the shop where the duplicate hand tools can go.

It is amazing how little you truly need but our mind tricks us into thinking we need way more than we do. Sales, commercials, popular trends, magazines, gifts, so on and so on all end up filling our drawers, closets and every possible empty space with stuff.  I even cut down on the number of pictures I hung on the walls though I have a larger house to limit the business of my environment.  The more I have, the less creative and productive I find myself.  I have been looking in some of my kitchen cupboards thinking that I need to further streamline what I still own.  There is so much I never use.   I still feel like I have too much stuff.

Do you?

My Happiness Theory…

I was thinking last night about a time that I can remember really being happy and blissful almost for an extended period of time.  I was 18/19 years old, in the time before I met my first husband Memorial Day weekend years ago.  Of course, I didn’t have the responsibilities and challenges that I do today.  There is just something about being a responsible adult that seems to spoil your fun a bit and steals away that carefree feeling.  You have a career, mortgage, bills, payments, kids, aging parents, health issues, repairs, maintenance, and the list goes on and on.  You have fleeting moments of that carefree bliss, like when I married my husband in a fairy tale ceremony at an antebellum mansion in Lexington, Kentucky, but it wasn’t long until life came rushing back and crowded out the bliss with responsibilities, drama, annoyances, irritations and crises that seem to happen on a daily basis.

As I laid there staring at the white ceiling, I thought to myself but I have a good life!  Why do I feel so frazzled all the time?  I have so many blessings, I’m grateful for all that I have.  I’m financially secure with a good job, great co-workers/work family, my daughters are all healthy and doing well, my husband is great and and I’m fortunate to have a great network of extended family and friends.  I can do more now than I ever could before when I was younger and I have more opportunities.  While I am truly grateful, I do not have that carefree, happy, blissful feeling I once did.  Why not? I asked myself this question and started listed all the annoyances in my life.  The list kept growing so I finally decided to stop myself.

There are always those people who are trying to steal your happiness. Or are they?  In truth, I let them steal my happiness and I give them too much power in my life.  There is always something going on, some stressor.  Something breaks, something won’t work, something doesn’t go my way.  How much of this can I truly control?  Very little usually. Most of this is out of my power, my locus of control but I am far from helpless. I may not be able to control what happens to me or around me but I do have more control than I think.

So I realized that I have a choice.  I can let all these little annoyances and even big crises steal my happiness or I can let it go and just be happy, content and serene.  It all comes down to how I react to each day’s challenges.  I can react negatively or I can preserve my peace and surround myself in happiness.  This won’t work for every situation and it is not like I won’t have reasons to be sad, angry or hurt but how many times do I react when I could just take a deep breath and make the conscious decision that whatever this bump in the road is, do I react by getting upset?  Or do I just let it roll off my back and go on ignoring it to preserve a peaceful bliss?

I think that is truly up to me.  I’m going to try an experiment this next week and consciously choose to be happy.  I figure what do I have to lose right?  Maybe I will recapture my carefree bliss if I don’t let every wind spin me around into a negative cloud.  It’s in my own power to recapture being carefree, happy and blissful. It all comes down to my attitude and my outlook. I truly believe this.

Check back next week, I’ll update you on my progress.  Namaste.