It is time to move again. My landlady wants to sell and who can blame her? There is money to be made. So I am moving. For the third time. In three years.
What I like about moving is the opportunity to consider my possessions. While I sort things, Kai just sits there staring at me. “Why do you people have so much stuff?” he seems to say, accusingly. He has a bowl, a dog bone and generally more than half of my bed…so he has a simple life.
Since I could never afford to have a moving company pack my home, nor have I ever, I a, always the one to take each thing, wrap it in paper and place it in a box. Over and over and over. But before I pack, I spend a lot of time searching for joy. It is a technique I learned form a Japanese author who challenges her readers to take and hold every paper in every file – every book on every shelf – every plate and bowl and every nick nack form every drawer – even every medicine from every cabinet…and ask one simple question: “Does this give me joy?”
This technology-of-life has changed my life. And every time I move I give away about 30% of what I own and 50% of my books. If it is a book or trinket from my parents it is immediately mailed to my sister to consider for her children. But if i bought it, then I dispose of it or I keep it.
But here is the funny thing. My sister and my colleague both gave me one of those red buttons which, when pressed, shouts out various and emphatic forms of “no!” Apparently this is an emergency button for a desk top and is for people like me who have a hard time saying no…in short…narcissists. So I put the second version of this plastic gadget into the trash can with reckless abandon along with old shoes, some weights, A chef set with broken pieces, magazines, my mother’s stationary from Williamsburg in the 1970’s, a cracked tea pot I made a decade ago, etc. The plastic bulged but I tied the top and went to place it by the door for the Goodwill pick-up. The house was, as it is usually – silent. And whenI picked up the bag, I guess something was pressing against the button because the entire bag screamed “No, no, no!!!” and i jumped eleven feet in sheer fright. Laughing at myself I moved it to the garage and when I placed it down at the kitchen door, it screamed “I SAID NO…N…O….NO!” and then when I got to door open I picked the bag back up and it shouted “I told you No. NO. NO. NO!” Then once in the garage I set the bag back down and it said “What part of “NO” is hard for you to understand.?!”
I turned around to turn out the garage light and half expected another recorded outburst. And once inside I still listened to see if the bag was still screaming.
The whole thing was hilarious (and a bit creepy) and it reminded me how much our culture likes to buy stuff, take stuff home, unwrap stuff, find a place for stuff, move stuff, label a box of stuff and then agonize over stuff, wondering if we will, one day, need that piece of stuff.
And generally. We do not. And never did.
I am one man and a dog. We need a few glasses, a table, a couple chairs, a bed big enough for both of us, a desk, a couch for guests, some pretty art and a mirror along with a few cooking utensils, a pottery wheel, a computer and some books. I need a rug for a sitting room and a rug for my bedroom and a teapot with some tea bowls. And a car. And clothes.
I wonder what our planet would be like if everyone had enough to live a clean, bright, lovely life with just and only what they need. I have not done the math yet, but I expect there would be – in this alternate planet – enough food for everyone and no wars.
It is a simple, and perhaps naive idea. But no less naive than one man in his thirties starting a world-wide movement just by letting himself be scapegoated.
If Christmas is when we pile gifts onto people, perhaps Holy Week is when we pile it all into bags and call Goodwill.
Somewhere, some Goodwill guy is gonna freak when he picks up that bag and it screams “NO!!!!..I SAID NO!” Makes me smile just t think about it!