“Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.”
I’ve been on a cleaning and disposing rampage lately. I’m not exactly sure why. Maybe I just want to organize; maybe I want to discard unhappy memories or clutter. Whatever the case, my recent binge of “Fall Cleaning” has been both enlightening and a lightening of my load! I’ve scoured through my closet, getting rid of bags of clothes and shoes; I’ve cleaned out my desk and files; and I’ve cleared out space after space throughout our home.
In the midst of this purging frenzy, I received encouragement in a most unlikely place: my yoga classes. Instructor Nicki suggested we use the Fall Equinox and the New Moon to set a class intention of letting go and making space for something beautiful. Think about your priorities, she suggested, and think about what to keep and what you may need to discard. Namaste!
At the same time, I was inspired even more when I went to read the September chapter of Gretchen Rubin’s “The Happiness Project,” which focuses on…duh, duh, duh…possessions. We own our possessions, but sometimes our possessions own us. And not in a good way.
As Rubin details in her book, many argue that we should not rely on our possessions to make us happy but they do, in fact, matter when it comes to someone’s happiness. I tend to agree and I would bet you do too even though most of us often deny the importance of what we own and what we covet.
“One of the secrets of a happy life is continuous small treats.” Iris Murdoch
The possessions that make me happiest however, aren’t a fancy car or a big house, it’s all those little things that I’ve filled our home with: handprint art from Kristen, photographs, souvenirs I’ve picked up on my travels, even my “Alpha Chi Mom” coffee mug. Is it really the items that bring a smile to my face, or the memories they invoke? In contrast, owning a dog makes me happy and so does buying myself fresh flowers, but neither induces memories of any kind. They simply cheer me and comfort me.
The difference between owning possessions and them owning you, is making sure they don’t master you or your happiness. Thoughts like “I would be happier with a better car” or “if only we had a pool” are not healthy and will unlikely lead to any increased level of joy. I, however, can be guilty as charged. Right now I’m thinking a pair of cute booties would be great. Would they make my life happier though? Doubtful.
It’s also important to not become materialistic, as studies show and Rubin reports, materialistic people –those who place too much importance on owning things and showing them off – are less happy. Apparently keeping up with the Joneses doesn’t make the Smiths any happier.
Rubin goes on to say that, yes, money can’t buy happiness per se but, well-spent, money can buy things that may contribute to increased levels of contentment. Money can help us support causes we believe in; keep in touch with far away family members; and even participate in activities that make us happy such as travel, sporting events, and the arts.
So, back to my household purging. I am amazed at how much calmer (and happier?) I am walking into my closet and seeing less hanging items. What I hadn’t worn in a year, what was out of style regardless of how much I like it, and what just didn’t fit or flatter my figure was tossed or donated. I even got rid of many pairs of shoes which, as I’ve chronicled numerous times, are my Achilles’ heel. Pardon the pun!
Hi, my name is Carla, I’m a Taurus, and I like things orderly. Yep, I’m an organizing freak and purging allowed me to organize to death. I may have too many things that drive my family members nuts, but I know where each one is and they are all, for the most part, neatly organized. Orderliness makes me happy. Loosing things makes me crazy!
“Outer order contributes to inner calm,” writes Rubin. I’ve always heard this but I had no idea that creating order can lead to a boost of energy and joyfulness. I will say, however, that after cleaning and clearing stuff out, I feel better and I feel fresher.
So what about all those things in your home that you’ve been “saving” but never use? Some of those things contribute to clutter, others may be neatly stored away, but do you really need them? Keep in mind that the longer you hold on to things, the harder they are to discard, So ……
“Happiness is not about having less; happiness is not about having more;
happiness is wanting what I have.”
Gretchen Rubin, “The Happiness Project”
Starting today I’m going to be smarter about what I buy and what I own. Do I need it? Do I love it? Can I afford it? If I answer “yes” to all three, then the purchase is worth considering. If not, walk away Carla and take comfort in the quiet knowing that you don’t need another possession to be happy.