Monday, August 20, 2007

Plain and Simple

Plain and Simple
The mantra is "Waste not. Want not." I say this as I hang the laundry on the line and think of my solid Protestant ancestors who I think would approve of my desire to reject wastefulness from my life. Today, after taking a bath in 12 cups of water, I realized that this expression only works when it can be reversed: "Want not. Waste not." It is nearly impossible to live a green life unless one is willing to live a voluntarily simple life. Our greed for things prevents us from knowing who we really are and what we really need to be whole. Having too many possessions makes one a slave to the material world.
I have been purging for years now. It is a perpetual process because it is so easy to pick up the this and that of life in our commerical society. It has become a spiritual ritual for me to work my way through my home releasing my material attachments. For us, there is an accumulation of second-hand furniture, clothes, toys, books, etc. I suppose because we are a low-income family, those who love us want to help. Apart from one barrister book case and a mattress, I do not think my husband and I have ever purchased any furniture in 11 years of marriage. Almost none of our clothes are new apart from socks and underwear. Our towels, doilies, table clothes, sheets, comforters, and pots, pans, silverwear, and dishes were gifts or second hand. We are blessed to have these things available to us but they can become overwhelming if there are too many of them. So I release them. I have a passion for neatness and organization; for having everything just where it belongs and in just the right amount. In mason jars on my counter we have just enough silverwear for the family to eat. In the cupboards, just enough plates. But there is still much to do. I still feel burdened by possessions.
Lately, this sense of being burdened by possessions and the dictates of the material world has led me to simplify my wardrobe. Since childhood, I've preferred a plain wardrobe. When shopping for school, I remember asking for a white blouse, a pair of dress shoes and a pair of sneakers, gray pants and a matching jacket. All other items had to be in somber, solid colors that I could mix and match with my wardrobe staples. Today I go through my wardrobe and shed the superflous, the little worn, and anything in the least bit flashy leaving only a few plain skirts and tops to match with a couple jumpers and a couple shorter skirts for work. Now my clothes hang in about a foot of space in the closet. The relief is exquisite.
For some time, I was trying to figure out what do with my hair. Feeling I should "Do Something With It" I looked at hairstyles and colors. Now I have let it grow out and have purchased some kerchiefs to tie it back. Every time I remove something; unnatural beauty products, vacuum cleaner, dryer, exess furniture, magazine subscriptions, chemical cleaning products, disposable feminine products, plastics, I feel this sense of great relief and homecoming. I feel as if by clearing away the stuff, an exercise I first began in my attempt to do my part to save the planet, I am finding myself. There I was all along just peeking out under the clutter.

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