I love Ted. No that is not the name of my husband or pet. In 1984 TED conferences were created to have the best of the best speak about Technology, Entertainment and Design. But is has grown to so much more and is truly ideas worth spreading. A friend sent me a link to TED the other day for Marco Tempest’s presentation about The Magic of Truth and Lies (and iPods). It is surely worth the view if you have five minutes to spare. But as often happens, once I finish one TED segment, I can’t help to launch into another. This time the one that caught my eye was Graham Hill’s Less Stuff, More Happiness. His talk reminded me of my college years and the trips to and from Peoria and then to and from Los Angeles where I lugged and shipped boxes upon boxes of books, a bicycle and goodness knows what else back and forth and back and forth again at great expense and inconvenience with the irony that I don’t know if I ever used more than ten percent of the stuff I moved around. But what really resonated with me is the idea of downsizing, especially now that my husband and I are dreaming of moving from our twelve-hundred square foot home onto a twenty-seven foot boat.
Don’t get me wrong, I love our house. We have spent the last eight or so years fixing it up, repairing it and making it truly ours. Plus we have more remodeling planned for this winter. But sometimes it feels like so much extra, so much padding, so much just surrounding and not interacting with us. For instance, our garage attic is filled with boxes from our move years ago which we have never opened! What is in there? If we haven’t missed is by now, do we really need to keep it? There are also rooms in our house which are used infrequently if ever. Graham mentions that over the last fifty years our homes have tripled in size and we have needed to add outside storage to keep all our stuff, but it has only resulted in credit card debt, excessive environmental footprints and having our happiness flatline over those same years. Sorry “Keeping up with the Jones’” more stuff does not equal more happiness.
There are so many physical items we keep around us because we believe they are part of us, they are part of our history or they define who we are. We use them to surround ourselves with comfort and insulate us from harm. But even if we are not eligible for the next episode of Hoarders, we may have some extraneous items clogging our lives. Yet getting rid of or “editing our life” as Graham says, can be difficult. Can you recycle the first love note your husband sent to you? Can you give away the blanket Aunt Ginny crocheted for you but just doesn’t match your décor? Can you let go of the mementos of your life? Thanks to technology, the answer to many of these questions can be yes. My collection of books will eventually be donated to the library when I add them all to the Kindle I so desire, my husband’s vinyl collection can be moved to MP3, and many of the remembrances of our lives can be scanned or photographed and stored for future viewing. To me, the physical item is not as important as the memory and the meaning.
Have you ever let go of something which is no longer of use or is just collecting dust? An amazing thing happens, it makes you lighter. Really, it does. Just like Scrooge’s partner Marley with his chain of wrongdoings, our throng of stuff can weigh us down and keep us from enjoying our lives. This is one of the reason I love moving. It is a great opportunity to go through the physical elements of our lives and really evaluate what we would like to keep. Although it can be scary, purging the extraneous things in our lives can open up the door to new and better things arriving – physical or experiential.
Take some time before Thanksgiving to look around your house and find five things you can donate. Choose clothes you haven’t worn in the last twelve months or check your kitchen for bowls or bakeware you do not use frequently. Feel what it is like to let go and be a bit more free while possibly helping out someone else in need.