Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Less is More


“Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.”
― Boyd K. Packer
Does anyone else feel hung over from Christmas? The shelves I saw in Target yesterday, beautifully arranged only a few weeks ago, are stripped B.A.R.E. There is literally not a single string of lights, or roll of paper. Tags, bows, doodads all bought and taken home to be stored for 11 months.

I feel like the discount stores of the world are taking over. This past fall a new one opened blocks from our home, literally across the corner from another competing company; both buildings' shelves were filled with, besides laundry detergent and kleenex, junkola in every shape and size and color.

I'm the pot calling the kettle black - as guilty as the next person of having too much stuff in my life - balls of yarn, and the needles and books of patterns, and gadgets; piles of fabric and patterns and thread and trims; papers and scissors and glues and stickers and cutters; bags and bags of elastic and snaps and hooks and buttons and stuffing and batting and ratty garments needing mending and that is just my craft room.

There is also our office with bookcases full of books I can check out at the local library, a certain section of them ironically on simplifying life.

An entire closet with decor for each season; bins of photo frames, too many coats and boots and gloves and caps; appliances we don't use; movies we don't watch; toys and board games nobody plays with; gardening tools we no longer use; extra sets of dishes that food rarely touches. Headbands and hair clips and earrings and scarves and shoes and handbags and it has begun to all feel like too much. Til I want to shove it all out on the sidewalk and shut and bolt the door behind it all.

I'm at an age where if it's not time to be honest with myself, then when? A look at family members, the genes we share, and the tendency towards overdoing, overbuying, overeverythinging is glaring. My oldest brother had acquired so much stuff, but faced nowhere to live with it all, so he chose death over life. And when he died, his son had to clear out three storage units, and a rented house whose halls were filled with stuff. That gene is scary.

If Angelina Jolie is brave enough to have a double mastectomy due to her genes, perhaps I can be brave enough to at least take a look at mine.

Dollar Stores and Big Lots and TJJ Maxx and - dare I say it? - those bins at the entrance of every single Target in the world -  much of the stuff on the shelves is inexpensive so we can buy three instead of one and drag it home and store, but rarely, use it. I have visions of wads of white lights, stored in bins, but they haven't been hung on our house in over five years. Why do I have them? I'm completely confident Cub Sweetheart would vote to get rid of them, asap!

My daughter got a beautiful cookbook for Christmas, and there was one recipe in it that looked fabulous. (There's a reason most cookbooks have beautiful, color photos.) For a change, instead of ordering the cookbook for $20.50 and having to store it either here in Idaho or drag it back to Texas, I checked it out of the library. Before we fly back to Texas I'll return it to the library, so someone else can check it out - borrow it. By then I should, if I've actually made the recipe, remember it well enough to store it in my brain instead of on a shelf.

I found this blog, quoting that familiar saying. My mother-in-law, who passed away seven years ago, used to tell us she recycled before it was cool. She also had a gazillion mayonnaise jars in her basement canning closet, so there's a balance to go after. But she used up what she had, wore out stuff before she replaced it, made do and did without.  I'd like to be more like that, to emulate her attitude. Because stuff can make you feel like you're drowning in it, or spending all your time maintaining it, or acquiring it, or cleaning it, or arranging it, or storing it.

When we arrived in Idaho we were without heavy winter coats. Today the high is 16, and it got cold enough last night that we left the cupboard doors below the kitchen sink open overnight. I went to Goodwill and bought a coat for under $20, and our son--in-law lent Cub Sweetheart one for the duration of our winter stay. I'm knitting myself a wool hat from yarn I brought out of my stash, and my red boots were a Christmas gift back when we lived in Pennsylvania. My 15 year old snow pants will come in handy for shoveling snow, walking Miss Lily and sledding with grandkids. All of that feels so good, to buy used or borrow and make do, rather than buy new to be used rarely.

Yesterday, driving down the main street that cuts through a neighborhood we saw a wooden structure built next to a roadside mailbox. It had shelves inside and a clear door over the front, and a little sign that said, "free library.' The inside was crammed full of books, and you could take what you wanted and leave some behind. I LOVE that! Someone who gives away their excess and chooses their reading material from what's left at the curb. So Abraham Lincoln! The person living in that house would be interesting to meet. Perhaps I'll drop off a handful of books and knock on the door.

The shelves of the stores are already packed with stuff for Valentine's Day. Aisles of red and pink and white stuff, and the jewelry stores will surely soon start all the guilt commercials, so men feel they need to buy us gifts. Oh my goodness! What if we didn't buy and instead wrote love letters, with pens, on unlined paper, to those we hold dear? What if we went through our stuff and regifted what isn't being used by us, but would bless someone else?

My MIL used to stuff dolls and animals and such with chopped up panty hose. She used the liner in the bacon as a mini-cutting board, or the insides of the potato chip bag. Pickles and stewed tomatoes, grown in her garden, were canned in mayonnaise jars. One of my daughter's most prized dolls, growing up, was not an American Girl doll, but rather Phyllis, purchased for 15 cents, and Grandma Atrel washed and curled her hair, then sewed her clothes from her scrap bag.

So I'm not going to go overboard on not going overboard. I'm not planning to start a co-op garden, give away every single thing I own, or vow to not buy a single thing in 2015. But I am going to focus on 'making it do, doing without, using it up, and wearing it out.' Goodwill, be on alert, I'm coming your way, with a car full of stuff I don't need or want or use, but hopefully someone else will.' 

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