Friday, May 3, 2013

LESS is so much more!!!!

“No man has a right to monopolize more than he can enjoy.”

~ Percy Blythe Shelley

Occasionally, we learn lessons over a period of time.  As more information is gathered, digested and pondered, there is a progression of thought that brings us to some type of logical conclusion and from time to time, an epiphany.  This type of progressive lesson began for me in the second half of 2012.  As long summer days gave way to the chill of fall, it became necessary to transition my summer wardrobe from my cramped closet to accommodate cooler temperatures and the emergence of winter.   
In pulling things from tightly packed racks, I realized there were items that had been completely overlooked during the summer because they were buried behind the sheer volume of “things” and could not be seen.  (I am giving the impression that my closet is large, which it is not.) However, the way it was originally designed created a fair amount of dead space in the corners making it difficult to see what was there.  About the same time I started this project, I ran across the quote by Percy Shelley in a magazine.  How much can one really enjoy and what does enjoy really mean?  Does enjoy mean to like, or is it deeper; such as things we use over and over and over because they are dear to us?  These questions took root and floated around in my mind for days.  Simplicity rang true to my senses reminding me it is probably impossible to thoroughly “enjoy things” that cannot even be seen.

Making things visible seemed like a reasonable place to start.  It was at that moment that my “Less is More” campaign of the past year or so transitioned to “If I Can’t See It, I Don’t Need It.”  Without hesitation, I pulled two clothing rods from my closet and decided that even with less space to hang my clothes, I probably couldn’t wear all the things on the two rods that remained.  Only things that I “really like” and that “really fit” could go into my newly downsized closet.  The rest was donated to various charities. 

A similar dilemma existed with a bulging bin of scarves, a pile of shoes and a box of tangled costume jewelry.  How can I enjoy things or remember to wear things I cannot even see?  My jewelry was soon organized onto a framed piece of corkboard and bracelets and necklaces were hung on a board mounted with drawer pulls from my favorite store, Anthropology.  I could see every pair of earrings and every necklace.  Scarves were sorted, folded and stacked in a shoe organizer.  Suddenly I could see every single thing that was in my closet.  A sense of pride was felt with my streamlined and organized space.  I now felt like I was on my way to following Shelley’s challenge to not monopolize more than I can enjoy.  What began as a closet organizaation endeavor (or so I thought), took a sharp turn to the right. 


Recently I took a trip to Nepal to participate in a dental humanitarian project in the rural Lamjung district.  After our initial arrival into Kathmandu, we spent a few days recovering from some long flights before heading into the villages.  My husband and I walked the streets in the very early morning because we were still wrestling with another time zone.  On the dusty streets of Kathmandu, before the city woke to the crazy chaos of vendors, traffic and noise, I noticed a young boy sorting through garbage with his bare hands.  He was pulling out all the organic garbage; watermelon rinds, pieces of tomato, bread scraps, etc.  Third world countries have many elements that assault our sensitivities and this was one of them.  I could not get this little boy off my mind and will forever remember those beautiful big, brown eyes and that precious brown little hand sorting through the wet garbage from the streets. 

The next morning I saw the same little boy with his parents once again sorting not only wet and smelly, organic garbage but cardboard, glass, etc. and placing it on a large cart.  My hope is that there is a sorting system in Kathmandu providing some kind of revenue for this sweet family.  The alternative is too heartbreaking to even consider.  Regardless of the reason for collecting and sorting the garbage, this young boy was actively participating in the very survival of his family.  Suddenly my “If I Can’t See It, I Don’t Need It” mantra seemed incredibly selfish and unreasonable.  What do I give to those in need?  Do I only toss away my scraps?    I have so much that I hold onto that I don’t need, wear or use.  What am I waiting for?  I have kept countless things for a variety of reasons that someone could have been using.  Countless things have never or hardly been worn or used.  Instead they have been hanging in that black hole in my closet or tucked away in a box taking space season after season. 

Paring down my possessions to things I can “see”, is merely justification to keep far more of those possessions than I can really “enjoy.”  Suddenly I had a new definition for the word "enjoy."  To be allowed to have as much as can be enjoyed is really quite generous.  To have more, borders on gluttony.  Therein lies the challenge for a society with abundance and a people whose habits include acquisition of personal possessions and consumption of goods. 

The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much it is whether we provide enough for those who have little.  ~  Franklin D. Roosevelt

Working with some of God’s most humble children, gave me clarity in the way I live my life, accumulate things I have convinced myself I need and cast off the things I don’t. My pockets, my closets, my pantries are deep in many respects both literally and figuratively. There is much that I can give and donate to those who, as Shelley suggested would love the opportunity to thoroughly "enjoy" them. 
photo credit - House Beautiful Magazine

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