I think of this table as the altar of consumption, full of stuff I don’t need that found its way into my house. Everything on this table is about to go to the thrift store. Not just any thrift store, but the one I volunteer my time at, which supports a nonprofit psychosocial rehab setting for adults in my community who are living with persistant and severe mental illness. Some of the items will go directly to my friends at the Clubhouse; others will go up for sale in the thrift store. I love knowing that paring down benefits not only me, but some of the people I care deeply about, and that none of these items are going to the dump. Simplicity, after all, is inextricably linked with sustainability.
Where did all of these items come from, and why are they in my house? They are:
- a figurine (gift)
- three mixing bowls my parents gave us (I have another nine. Yes, nine. I’m working on it.)
- twelve books, almost all gifts.
- two pairs of shoes I bought for myself and rarely wear.
- two bamboo spoons and a wooden one. (gifts)
- a DVD (gift)
- a canvas bag (I own at least seven canvas bags. why?!)
One thing I’ve realized is that gifts are a mixed blessing. They convey generosity, caring, and love. Sometimes they are very useful, like the coffee grinder my parents gave us that lets us grind our own beans and spices. We use it every day. But most of the time, gifts are luxuries, which means we don’t need them. Really. I neither need nor want any of the gifts on that table, but each “gift” is in my house because someone gave it to me and I didn’t have the heart to get rid of it. After all, I love these people who give me things; they are my friends and family, and I have no wish to hurt their feelings. Far from it. The end result of which is a pile of detritus filling my house: books I’ll never read, a movie I’ll never watch, mixing bowls I’ve used once in the six years (!) that we’ve had them. So off they go to the thrift store, and I’m making a resolution, here and now: every gift I give for the rest of this year will be handmade and sustainable, or else a donation in the recipient’s name to a charity that does good in the world. Maybe I’ll even take some pictures of my handicrafts! Anybody else want to join me? Generosity is beautiful, but I see no reason that it can’t be coupled with simplicity.
(And Mom and Dad, if you ever see this post, you’re an exception to this rule. I love you more than anything and I sure am grateful for the coffee grinder! You’re the most generous people I know, in the best possible way, and I would never criticize that about you).