Saturday, November 22, 2014

Mindless Clutter

"Utter Simplicity" 
- in my meditation garden -

Now that the so-called "holiday shopping season" has geared up into full-swing, I find myself being deluged with a barrage of endless ads offering those special "one-time" holiday deals. Every day the mailbox outside our house overflows with catalogues and flyers announcing the good news of deep discounts. My computer "junk box" is cluttered with scores of unsolicited offers, deals I can't afford to pass up.

Yesterday I was especially entertained by one particular "Black Friday" ad that arrived in the mail. Pictured in the ad was an obviously-satisfied customer pushing a shopping cart overflowing with bargains" stacked so high that the pile of stuff was taller than the lady pushing the cart. My immediate response to that image was, "What on earth is she going to do with all those things?"

That picture of the piles of stuff also made me think about my own many years of gathering more and more mindless clutter in my own life. 

Years ago when my wife and I were preparing our cross-country move from Central New York to Los Angeles, we decided that we would get rid of all the clutter we had accumulated over our many years of marriage.  At the time our boys were off to college, our nest was empty, so we decided to "clean house for our move out West. We had some garage sales; gave away old tools, unwanted clothing, cleaned out boxes of toys -no sense in moving all the clutter from one side of the country to the other. 

Years later as we prepared to make another move - this time from L.A. out to the desert where we now live, we realized that once again we needed to get rid of the clutter. Our desert home is far smaller than our Los Angeles residence and so we would have to "downsize." 

But in this process of downsizing, I came to the stunning realization of how much clutter had still remained in our lives. I thought we had gotten rid of it all years ago when we moved across country,  but I discovered that we still brought a lot with us - our garage, attic and basement was packed full of boxes that we never even opened after our last move - dishes, candles, books, kitchenware, small appliances, clothing and shoes, jewelry, camping gear that we hadn't even looked at for over 30 years.

So we had a bunch of yard sales and we donated to local charities, but in the end we discovered that we had accumulated so much clutter that we couldn't even give it all away. We wound up having to pay someone to haul away all the years of accumulated clutter stacked up high in piles out in our driveway. 

Author and ecologist Wendell Berry once said:

Don't own so much clutter that you would be relieved to see your house catch on fire.

I totally get what this means. 

Today I am thinking about shopping carts filled up with "holiday bargains" piled so high that you can't see around them, and I am wondering if this upcoming season may actually be a good time to get rid of all the endless clutter rather than accumulate more.

There is something very freeing about traveling lightly in life. 


  1. I feel the same with about possessions. Unfortunately I have agreed to take in two more cats.

    Also what part of Central NY did you come from? That is where I was born and raised. Just 25 miles west of Syracuse in the heart of the Finger Lakes.

    1. Born in Buffalo, spent many years in Syracuse.

    2. I was born in Auburn. I'm really glad to have escaped the CNY winters. Rain is much better than snow.