The Problem with Stuff

I’m in a down-sizing frame of mind. The reason? I have too much house, too much yard, too much stuff. And though I strive to live quasi-clutter-free, I still feel the bulk of the life I’ve built pressing in on me. It’s Saturday morning and I’ve been giving serious thought to breaking one of my long-held resolutions. I’m considering a garage sale. This desire to shed myself of excess has me surveying everything in my house with a critical eye. Do I need you? I ask my set of formal dishes. I tally up the times I’ve used them. I don’t even need two hands. Do I need you? I scan the seasonal decorations. Half-stuffed scarecrows, Christmas village houses with chips and missing lights, and Santa figurines (Twenty-three? Say it isn’t so!).

The answer is clear. It’s time to clean the garage and hawk some STUFF.

The good news is that I haven’t been tempted by an ethnic Pipka Santa (or much else, in fact) in about two years. Hmm, around the time I started to write seriously.

Coincidence? I think not.

Something has changed in my life. Like continental plates shifting, I’ve felt a slow but steady movement at the core of who I am to shave off the extras until all that remains reveals my truest self. I have a theory about why this has occurred. It could be a load of hooey, but I think not.

Each of us is put on this spinning orb with a specific work that we are uniquely equipped to do. It is the thing that brings us the greatest joy and makes us feel most alive. It is also the thing that we are often terrified of doing because if we fail, well, that failure means something.

I’ve always written professionally in some form or another. I’ve worked as a journalist, copy editor, psychological disability review editor, marketing specialist. You get the idea. I made my living prettifying words. In my spare time I wrote poetry (badly) and short stories (passably well, I like to think). Whatever life threw at me: the good, the bad, the horrific, the delightful  – I wrote about it. I dreamed of writing a novel, but that’s all I did. Dream. Why? Because I was afraid. As long as I kept dreaming about writing a novel, I was safe from actually having to do it or (shudder) finding out that I wasn’t good enough to publish said hypothetical novel. And while I dreamed, I accumulated. I feathered my nest with the trappings of an artistic soul and survived off the crumbs of other people’s approval.

Two years ago my need to write a novel finally grew stronger than my fear of failure and, in short, I stepped into my life’s purpose. I haven’t looked back, but I have learned a thing or two about crafting words and crafting an authentic life. Here’s what I’ve discovered: Two words are better than three. One word is best yet. Active voice engages. Passive lulls the reader to sleep. And the house, the yard, the stainless steel appliances? Pfft, I don’t need ’em. Granite countertops? Still a big ol’ nope. Schmancy car? Naw, I like my little 8-year-old VW bug. It suits me. I am 47 years-old, and I am finally tightening my writing and my life. Dang, it feels good!

So today I commit myself to sparsity. To walking this earth lightly and carrying with me only the things that truly nourish my soul. By next spring I hope to sell my house and move with my husband and two dachshunds and a few precious belongings into a little condo in the Cities. Just the thought of being closer to my writers group, the Loft Literary Center, the Walker Art Center, the Central Library, and the bookstores I love is enough to motivate me to spend my weekend digging through my closets and cleaning out my garage.

In the meantime, have I got a deal for you . . . if you’re looking for a 16-piece set of perfectly fine, perfectly beautiful white bone china, that is.



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