Monday, March 08, 2010

Simple Abundance

I've been reading a book by the title of "Simple Abundance" and I've been thinking a lot about the topic. I want a simple abundance in my life: enough, but not too much. Laughter galore, good books, music, friends, wine, quiet, flowers, comfort, beauty. I want to live in the present, loving what I have, even when I'm working for the future.

I want to be surrounded in beauty, but I don't want to live in a museum or on the pages of a catalog. I want to be content with what I have, but still know how to dream and to plan.

How does one go about making her home filled with simple abundance? Not the trappings of a modern consumerist life like in the glossy pages that are before us all the time; not what Martha Stewart or HGTV tells us, but a comfortable home where people love to visit. A place of serenity, safety, comfort, and beauty. A place marked by individuality.

Today, I'm spring cleaning. After helping my in-laws to spring clean their home in preparation for sale this weekend, I came home filled with resolve to do the same things in my own life. When Ryan and I watch "Designed to Sell" we always laugh at the simple changes that people make that they should have made years ago to make their home more livable; I'm working on that myself today. But it's more than that: it's the philosophy of being present, of knowing how much is enough and how much is too much. It's being able to separate memorabilia that brings joy, and the things that just add clutter. I'm not moving any time soon (I hope not, anyway) but the practices that people go through before a move are probably good for all of us. Ryan and I have lived here for nine years, and the house that once seemed palatial is now filled to the rafters with stuff.

I suffer from the same consumerism that impacts us all. Right now I want a new dining room table (ours is starting to sag), a remodeled attic and kitchen and basement, and clothes with feminine ruffles on them. And a new trenchcoat in a color that pops. There is always a list of books or music to buy or have.

These same things might be things I don't want in a year, or in ten, and so I'm trying to examine my impulses more closely. I don't need anything. I don't need much stuff, and we have so much.

I don't want stuff. I want beautiful, useful objects that please me and truly simplify my life. I want it for the joy of it, but I also want it to be sustainable and green for this earth. I want our possessions to contribute to the ease of our lives, but not to rule us.

So, as I'm going through overflowing closets and drawers and extra rooms, the question I ask is: What is enough? What is the difference between abundance and excess?

I'd love a discussion on this, with some practical numbers thrown in. How many of each should we have at any time?
- magazines
- books
- CDs
- toys
- baskets
- sets of sheets
- sets of towels
- extra blankets
- vases
- office supplies
- clothing per person
- shoes per person
- kitchen tools
- other.....

I'd love to see others thoughts. What is simple abundance, and what is excess? Where is the balance between simplicity and abundance?

I believe that when my physical space is in order, my life feels more in order - and my head, too. I'm working on all of it right now.

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Many thanks to my beloved in-laws for allowing us to share in their process this weekend as they sort through a lifetime of home furnishings and mementos before they downsize to the "land cruise" of the pretty retirement place they've picked out. I know it's not easy to choose which memories to take and which to leave behind, but I hope that when I am in their shoes I will handle it with as much grace and good humor. I am grateful to them for allowing me to whirl through their home, poking my nose into the corners to help them, because though I do it as a service I imagine it must be invasive, too. It is an honor to be entrusted with the joy of helping to care for them. Mom and Dad Surface, I love you. I hope you're relaxing after the whirlwind of your family swirled through your home this weekend.

3 comments:

Caley said...

I heard about a monk who said that the true spirit of fasting meant eating just a little bit less than what he wanted. Perhaps the same is true for our consumption of "stuff"--that we do with a little less than what we want (and determining the difference between want and need is not always easy). I admire your pursuit of simplicity. :)

Melissa said...

I just wanted to say that I love Simple Abundance by Sarah Ban Breathnach. I've had her book since the mid 90's. It is my faithful companion. I highlight passages and write little notes on the pages. I read and re-read it. Her words inspire me. I've given Simple Abundance to many of my friends over the years. I think it's a book worth keeping on the book shelf.

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