Thinking About Shrinking

A lot of time has passed since writing on this blog. And while there are many reasons and excuses, the main one is that life has turned and changes are a foot.

The past month was spent on the lovely Hawaiian island of Maui. Where a new home was purchased. Then the manfriend’s house in California was put up for sale and in great earnest preparations for the sale made. Painters hired, extraneous possessions organized to be tossed, sold or taken to Goodwill. All of this on top of the sale of the home in Mexico, where again possessions are being organized to be tossed, sold or taken to Hawaii.

The process of reducing ones possessions is a difficult and exhilarating one. Difficult because of the attachments we form to the objects and exhilarating because there is a sense of freedom gained as each unnecessary object is let go.

The attachment to some objects is understandable. They are a part of our history, the story of our lives. We remember receiving the Australian Audubon Society plant press, a thoughtful gift from the mother-in-law, at a time when we worked as a botanist. Used only once or twice, it sits collecting dust on a shelf in California, but nevertheless retains the memory of the gift received from an important character in early adulthood.

In processing the object’s history as it relates to our own, we recognize its inherent value and hope someone else might benefit from possessing it. It is in this process of evaluation that it is decided whether to toss it, sell it or give it away – to share possibly that feeling of delight in receiving a gift.

Some items are valuable only because of the history they represent. The large ashtray with a voluptuous woman reclining down its center may look like a piece of junk to most people, but to the manfriend it is a connection to his mother who gave him this strange gift many years ago. And then she died of lung cancer from smoking too many cigarettes. He had the good sense to quit smoking after her death, but holds on to the ashtray.

On the other hand, the freedom we feel from releasing our attachment to physical objects is understandable in that with fewer possessions we have less to concern ourselves with. The brass tacks of having less things to dust and maintain. But it is also a visual freedom – freedom from the noise of cluttered surroundings. In an environment filled with “stuff” we feel stressed and irritable. Remove the clutter and peace is at hand. It is this belief that motivates the Zen Buddhists to maintain their surroundings in serene simplicity.

As previously mentioned, clutter makes us stressed, less peaceful. Stress makes our bodies release cortisol, increasing blood sugar levels, which releases insulin, giving us hunger pangs and food cravings.

40 pounds of clutter = 40 pounds of body fat

Lose the clutter, lose the fat? The first time I downsized from a four bedroom house to a one bedroom apartment I lost 200 pounds (a 170 pound husband plus 30 pounds of fat).

So how much do we really need? How many pairs of shorts, jeans, or shoes? Like me, do you maintain a large pile of old t-shirts because you need one to do work around the house? How many cars do you need? ATVs? books? And the consummate question for the surfer: How many surf boards are enough? Can you get by with one? And if so, which one?