Those were some heated and passionate comments on my post on paring down your library last week. If you didn’t get the chance go have a read. There was a fantastic range of perspectives from librarians, paper book lovers and collectors and quite a few people that have drastically pared down their home library and are enjoying it.
A few of the comments, the more vehement and near sighted, reminded me of another once impossible to fathom, now very real, change in our world. It was 2005, I was an avid reader of The Economist at the time, and I was on a date with an American. We were discussing the great potential of China and India and I said, “it’s interesting to think that the US won’t be on top in the future.” What ensued was a twenty minute rebuttal that the US would always be on top and any ideas to the contrary were ridiculous. This from a fairly intelligent person with an undergraduate and masters degree. Needless to say we didn’t have another date.
Change is the only constant.
First, I must clarify that I don’t think paper books will be extinct in my lifetime. The world moves quickly but not that quickly. And, yes, there will likely always be collectible paper editions for books. So while I think my musings about a solely digital reading experience in the future were great for sparking debate and thought – they probably weren’t a reality any of us will see.
Second, there were quite a few responses from people that detailed the joy they get from the look and feel from a book. There were several descriptions of the craftsmanship that goes into a book, the care and diligence of a beautiful type face. And there were comments that took it a step further to insinuate that ownership of these books made them a true reader. That a large library equated a large intellect.
You are not your stuff.
One of the things I let go of and donated to a second hand shop was a small collection of Coach purses. I remember buying my first Coach handbag and reveling in its beauty, how soft the leather was, how smart I thought it looked slung over my shoulder. I also liked that people could see the name tag and know I had spent a lot of money on it. I liked the association with an expensive brand. It made me feel rich – even if I was drowning in credit card debt at the time.
I’ve slowly been letting go of the ego associated with things. Worrying less about what people think about us not having a car, enjoying my small wardrobe even if it means someone might comment that I wear something a lot and caring more that my son uses and is engaged with his toys than if he has a massive selection of them.
I am not my things.
You aren’t either.
If you have an appreciation of fashion and a great sense of style, it’s not because of the labels in your clothes or the size of your closets or because you have subscription to Vogue. Your talents and love for clothing are evident in the way you instinctively know how to create an outfit, the way you make thrifted or inexpensive clothing look great and the hours you devote to reading and discussing style.
This isn’t an easy jump to make in a culture obsessed consuming culture. I still struggle with it. Moving to a small town on an island has helped. Moving to Europe, where vacation is plentiful (5 weeks + 10 bank/stat holidays) and there is a stronger culture of relaxing and work life balance, has also helped.
But the biggest thing that has helped me separate my self worth and identity from my belongings, has been getting rid of a lot of stuff I once coveted but rarely used.
This blog began as a memoir for my own decluttering and has evolved to now include some of my ideas, musings and advice on living with less.
At times it’s a lonely road.
If you read more conventional blogs or websites you know that my contemporaries, mom bloggers as we are called, are running giveaways, aligning with big brands and shilling the latest in X, Y and Z. You’ll see in the upper right hand corner of this page my first ad, for a book about clutter (of course). There is no McDonald’s here, no Ford, no Swiffer Wet Jet. There may be some affiliate links, or a small and appropriate ad on the sidebar, but the biggest thing I am trying to sell you on is yourself. You can get rid of stuff, big or small, radical or gradual, and it will change your life for the better.
I’m not always going to write things that everyone likes. But I will always strive to show the other side, how you can live with less, how you can quietly and discretely buck the trend of debt and cluttered closets, and how you really can live a rich life with less stuff.