Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Year of Enough starts here...

I wrote a couple of days ago of wanting to live a simple life, in the tea house. I tried to think practically how much of our stuff that we could live without. That was quite easy until I got to a clothes line and bike shed and all the stuff that comes with daily life that would inevitably clutter up a zen space.

But maybe that's the problem.

We seek to possess or inhabit something so that we might embody its qualities that we admire... and yet in the act of possession or inhabitation, we bring our own mess, our own baggage with us, and the object of our affections becomes sullied in our eyes.

Bugger it, the Buddhists are right again – I am clinging, this is attachment. It will and can only lead to suffering.

There is another way. Just to hold and enjoy and release, rather than possess. I guess the thought bird practice is a good one for cultivating the mindset of peace and clarity, to learn to embody these qualities within myself, rather than seeking to grasp them outside of myself.

I have recommited myself to “The Year of Enough”. After all, this is stil 2011, and it is never too late to start again. We can always recommit ourselves in the endless Now.

And so I have started shifting junk – again! Ripped children's books, plastic containers, cardboard boxes, medicine bottles with only a teaspoon of syrup left, endless children's drawings – gone. Odd socks and unworn pants – gone. The top that makes me feel fat and has a hole in the sleeve, even though it's practical – gone! Bags of hand-me-down clothes waiting for “what if”... going. The surfaces are clear - ahhhhhhhhhhhhh that feels good! My house is transforming into one big zen space

I realise that I have many clogging patterns which I have inherited and nurtured: in my body, my emotional life and my home. These include:

Waste not want not... – so I eat more than I need, including the kids left overs.
Waste not want not... – hang on to it because it might be useful some time – scraps of fabric, a ripped book, bits of string, used elastic bands, an extra, extra coat, that-little-plastic-thingy-that-no-one-quite-knows-what-it-does-or-where-it-comes-from-but-it-might-come-in-handy...
Comfort fullness – I like the feeling of being contentedly full – until it overwhelms me and I feel bloated – in my body and in my house. I don't like feeling empty/ hungry/ in need – I like to be set up for the day/ for life. I am a good Girl Guide and I like to “be prepared”
Taking on other's stuff – if people chuck stuff out, they come to me to see if I want it – this way I keep myself and the kids in clothes for free... but I also get a lot of stuff that we don't need, that I'm not very good at moving on and moving out, so I keep it for just in case... in bags, in corners, that children unpack and scatter around and get attached to. Beware other serial hoarders - they try off-loading their stuff on you so they don't feel bad about getting rid of it!
Taking on other's stuff mentally. I'm good at this one too – you have a problem, I'll get upset on your behalf, I'll get agitated for you, I'll worry and cook you meals and get really involved. Until I end up spending more energy on your life than mine. Then I get really tired. And don't shift my own stuff. So it builds up...again!
Buying more stuff – because I really believe that we “need” this, that this is “different”, that this is a good deal or will bring greater happiness, that THIS isn't too much, it's all the other stuff that is bad... and the problem is, sometimes I'm right... and then a lot of the time I'm wrong
Mental dread – I prefer to get caught up in head stuff (reading/ writing/ TV) to avoid the “pain” of tidying and shifting stuff on a daily basis – this is part laziness, and part the drudgery of not again, please God, not again I feel tired from the last time I washed up/ tidied/ sorted stuff. I experience tidying and sorting stuff as energy depleting, not energy building. And a waste of time. Not the real stuff of life, just a monotonous bind which I resent.
Mental dread – I can plan the perfect healthy eating regime – but doing it – no siree, I get caught up in the head stuff

Do you recognise yourself in any of these?

I can see the roots back into my own unique childhood – child of divorced parents, often very lean parental incomes, being told not to waste food, wanting to assert this is how much I eat, that I deserve to take up space...

With the amount of diet books and decluttering books on the market, I know I am by no means alone in this. I recognise the teachings of the Buddha, the words of Jesus about the lilies of the field... to be human is to struggle with worries about if we have enough, of how to deal healthily with the material world - without hoarding, anxiety, greed...

I recognise that my habits are built on faulty beliefs...
That hanging on to stuff will make me happy
That fundamentally everything will NOT be OK, so I need to be as prepared as I can for impending disaster
Sugary food/ pretty clothes/ another book... make life easier to cope with
That I am not enough, not good enough...
That stuffing myself fuller and fuller will make everything safer, better, happier
That feeling full is better than feeling my feelings
That tomorrow is a better day for dealing with shit
That I am too tired
That I can't face it
That I mustn't say no or be ungrateful
That if I don't take it/ eat it this opportunity is gone for ever... and I'll regret it. So take it just in case
I am scared of being hungry or without what I need
Waste is bad
Not knowing how much I actually need rather than want
Believing the voices in my head, letting them dominate
Believing on a deep level that stuff is better than space

But all these are just beliefs and open to examination.

And so here I sit, in the tea house, grateful that I am here, now. Not wishing away my home as it is. Not fantasising about living here. Just writing these words with the sun rising higher in the sky over the light house, the sea shimmering, migrating ducks flying in over the bog. I am here... letting go.

Awareness is the first step. The next is action. Both are happening here.

Our fridge is full of fruit and veg and I am really focusing on creating lighter health filled meals and snacks. Our surfaces are clear, and I am rededicating myself to sustaining it with joy! I'm practicing saying no and monitoring how much I take on. This is the Year of Enough, starting here, and now. Away with overwhelm. Away with bloatedness. Welcome enough. Welcome natural balance and abundance.

Where are you at with this? Will you join me at re-dedicating yourself to enough before the winter blowout of Thanksgiving and Christmas? Let us shed our "too much" just as the trees are shedding their leaves. Let us enter the winter bare and simple. Let us celebrate the winter holiday season in mindfulness.


  1. I'm right with you. IN fact, since the middle of October I've been decluttering like crazy.

    Yesterday I finally, FINALLY finished my office and I can't help but beam like a Cheshire cat when I walk in there. There is space and order...

    Even my husband has been congratulating me on my achievement (He's the hoarder, remember?!) and tidied his corner of 'stuff'. He got rid of about 85% of his things that were crammed into a 'one day' box. I feel so proud of him.

    I really heard you when you listed the things that hold you back, I can relate to many of them. Today I am exhausted, perhaps from taking on other people's mental clutter, perhaps from the emotions of burning 1998 diaries, who knows. So I honoured myself and went to bed for 2 hours to rest. Then I got up and started over.

    You're right - we can begin again in any given moment...

  2. Hurray, hurray! I get you, Mrs G and you get me! Totally on the same page - I have that Cheshire cat smile on myself when I look at our kitchen. Our cleaner came today, and she might even think we have a new cleaner it was so clear and tidy, rather than the shithole/ war zone she usually enters!!

    Hurray for you and your office. Hurray for your hubby. Wow for the courage to burn old diaries - I'm not there yet myself, THAT takes courage! And triple hurray with nourishing chocolate sauce for taking a rest.

    Thanks for living alongside me Mrs G, my life is brighter for that!

  3. Love it, love it, love it! And yes, yes yes... this is just what we are doing too. I LOVE not having clutter - for one I recognise that clutter makes for poor mental health in my case - and in many others I suspect too.

    Have you read "The Monk Who Sold his Ferrari"? Not quite Paulo Coelho but an excellent read when you get into it, with some great steps to making the change.

    This is definitely the year of change - let's make it!

  4. I love this idea, Lucy! Enough IS enough! How simple. My greatest challenges are not taking on other people's mental stuff and "comfort fullness." Comfort fullness is usually more than enough and has those results you wrote about.

    I love the idea of shedding enough like the trees shed leaves. What a powerful image to use in meditation.

  5. Thanks Zoe - will check out that book, it's been on my radar for a while.

    Thanks Loran - the leaf image was inspired by a recent post by my good friend MotherFunker over here

  6. Ha! Seems like this idea is in the air today - check out this post by Zen Habits which has just gone up all about clutter, Zen and habits!

  7. I was laughing my head off reading this, recognising myself! Thank you for illuminating my own bad habits! In our case we are terrible at having a home for something and sticking to it. So the house is often in flux because one week something lives here, the next it's moved over there! Maybe I do it to myself to stop myself getting bored? And taking on too much stuff is maybe a psychological buffer somehow, a layer of padding from the awfuness of being bare and exposed? Maybe that's the same reason for scoffing so much - a nice layer of wadding to disguise the real me that doesn't feel good enough just as I am?
    I am good enough though! And so are you! And so are we all who do this very thing to ourselves! xxx :-)

  8. Gosh, I HEAR YOU! My only tokens efforts at 'enough' are to stop being taken in by multibuy offers at supermarkets/pharmacies. Inevitably it's an offer for something that I REALLY REALLY REALLY don't need two, or three or four of, and my house just ends up full of crap! And the second thing is to TRY to always think about the traditional Japanese eating habit where one should stop just at the point before fullness. Apparently it would be terribly bad manners to eat 'til full, far less 'til comfortably full... naturally I rarely manage this, but I think about it often!

    Your year of enough is a very commendable aim, I look forward to reading how you get on. I'm sure it will be inspirational as ever.

  9. I certainly recognise myself in many of these and I love the idea of holding joy in the release. It sounds so much easier than clinging on - perhaps it is when we allow it.

  10. Thank you all for your enthusiasm!

    @Samantha - well put, totally!

    @Little Macaroon - YES! on the supermarket stuff. But I do swing it my way so that if they are doing a deal on something we usually get which is expensive - like dishwasher tabs or nappy wipes, I ONLY buy it when it's on offer and stock up then!

    @MF - we are good enough. Totally!

  11. I'm so happy that you've recommitted to "enough" and faced those dark motivations. That's a big, brave thing you've done, and I can't congratulate you enough!

  12. The part of this that speaks to me the most is about taking on others' 'stuff' mentally. Sometimes I get so jammed up with everyone else's crap that I don't take the time to clear out my own. I am joining you in your dedication to enough!

  13. Thanks Ellie

    Welcome aboard the enough train Marla!

  14. I am so appreciative of this post! I am going to share this with everyone I know. Let's do this!

  15. Oh, delighted empowered life, thanks!



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