Monday, January 6, 2014

Screw the simple life, I'll take moderation please.

Ah, January. The time of year when everyone starts to claim an inner need to clean out their houses, work out more, work on their marriages, hug their kids more, and in general, set asinine resolutions that won't last more than a month for 99.8% of people (yes, I acknowledge there are some of you leprechauns out there, but you're very, very rare).

So if you go on Pinterest right now, its full of "Why our grandparents lived better" including "eating better" "buying better" and "living better". And then on the other side you see "yes, but they had disease" "their food selection sucked" "they starved some years" "their houses were teeny" "they didn't have any money" "they hated anything new"

but the overwhelming refrain throughout all these articles is that "You should live the simple life". Buy only a modest amount of things, don't eat too much, walk to work, and come home to dinner on the table (and depending on the age of the author, sometimes even "and a martini made" as well).

You know what? That whole idea SUCKS. Let's just say what everyone is thinking. Restricting your life down to the bare essentials is a lot of effort. You end up focusing on what you can't have, and end up bitter and angry that your life wasn't better. You end up being that person at the party who complains about what you don't have, and how you really need X but can't get it. That life is awful. That's why our grandparents wanted us to do better, have more, and live more.

Gosh, this sounds awful negative, doesn't it? Some people enjoy the martyrdom of that situation. Not me. That's why I was so pleased when I read this article.

This part is the part that really makes a lot of sense to the modern person with the knowledge of the vintage life:

"Give yourself permission to only keep the things that are currently useful, despite who gave them to you or how much they cost.   This can be really hard, especially at first.  That’s where the ruthless part comes in.  As you sort through your things, ask yourself these questions:
  1. Do we use it, wear it, or play with it?  If it is clothes, does it still fit?
  2. Is it in good working condition?
  3. Does it enrich our lives in some way?
  4. Does it have sentimental value?
  5. Could someone else use it more?
It  is helpful to make 4 categories:  1.) Things to keep in this area,  2.) things to donate,  3.) things to throw away, and 4.) things to put elsewhere (keepsake box, seasonal items, or things that belong in a different room).  Once you’ve cleared an area and put away all the items that belong elsewhere, move on to the next area.  Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.
Read more at http://www.livingwellspendingless.com/2013/08/27/clutter-free-forever-vintage-tips-for-an-organized-home/#6QeweGjjdH2bKB9r.99"

How brilliant is that? A simple system that can help you manage the flow of objects, digital and physical in your house in the smartest way possible without all the preaching about "the simple life". She's really trying to help people here with a way to live that our grandparents DID understand and I think did almost intuitively.

I remember my grandparents kept a lot of stuff in their houses, too. In fact, I think I may have called them a hoarder on a time or two, on both sides of the family. But I also remember that anytime anyone needed anything, you were more than welcome to use what was there. Mess up your shirt? See if one in the laundry room fits. Break your bike? Grandpa's probably got a metal piece he can weld to fix it up. They had less sentimental value to the things and took value from anything in good working condition and how it could be used.

What I think we most forget is that the value in the item doesn't come from where it came from or what its supposed to do or who sold what to us. We're sold a constant bill of goods from every angle in life, including our friends and family, that we absolutely NEED the latest gadgets or latest foods or latest toys. Choosing to ignore this bill of goods is less about letting things go and more about determining what to keep and what to let into your life.

It's not an easy nor quick process, but I think that Ruth's practice of keeping the positive in the process rather than the negative is the better way to go. Her idea of moderation and controlling the flow of items into our life is a way better practice than staring restriction and negativity in the face. 
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