If I got rid of all my history books, did that mean I wasn’t smart anymore? That the time I spent working for two Philadelphia archives was wasted? That I should never have considered grad school?
Paring down my book collection for a move just got complicated.
Who knew that my “stuff” held so much meaning? Was I doomed in my efforts to live with less? Or could my dogs teach me how to transform my relationship to my stuff?
Dogs and Stuff
When a foster dog comes to our house, I assume they won’t want to share. I remove all the dog toys from the floor. And I feed the new dog in a separate room from where I feed Honey.
Some dogs have issues with someone taking their stuff. I can’t afford fights in my living room. My upholstery is dry clean only.
As I get to know the new dog, I introduce toys gradually. Perhaps a tug toy they can pull with Honey. But when I leave the house all toys go out of reach.
I’m very conservative. But you know what? Most dogs do not have problems sharing their stuff.
As long as they know they’ll get it back sometime, or that there’s something even better across the room, they don’t get too attached.
Honey does have some favorites—toys that are particularly important to her. Her big stuffed lamb is at the top of the list. Lamby never comes out when there’s a new dog around.
Lamby is special and I don’t allow any other dogs to play with her.
Maybe I need to figure out what items in my life are special to me. And pay less attention to all the other stuff.
What Makes Stuff Special
As I look around the house, I see the baggage I’ve attached to my stuff.
- I can’t get rid of that because it was a gift.
- That’s an antique. It should be dealt with properly.
- That family heirloom won’t last if you keep using it instead of wrapping it in acid free paper and putting it in a safe place.
- Don’t toss that out. You might need it some day.
- That book says something about who you are. It’s got to stay.
Did you notice I didn’t say, “I can’t get rid of that. It’s special. I love it.”
When I look around for things I find special, I don’t see much. Mostly I see projects I need to complete, things needing to be cleaned, and stuff looking for storage.
And if my stuff isn’t meaningful to me, why do I have it?
Living With Less
My life looked quite different when I was in my twenties.
I owned a three-story house with six bedrooms, two fireplaces, and a crystal chandelier in the living room. The house itself was a never-ending string of projects. Not the least of which was filling it with furniture.
Luckily, my love for a huge house was accompanied by my innate cheapness. If I had been less frugal, I would have filled the house but saddled myself with debt.
Instead, I filled the house but saddled myself with projects as I pulled items out of the dumpster or bought them at used furniture stores.
And with two crazy dogs, Agatha and Christie, who had no respect for my stuff, the list of projects got longer and longer.
My current house is half the size of my first one. And it’s still too big. And filled with too much stuff.
It’s time to learn to live more like a dog.
Lessons From the Dog
I can learn a lot about living with less by using Honey as my example:
- Hold on to things that are really special to me and give me pleasure. Find my “Lamby.”
- Rotate my “toys” to keep them feeling fresh and new. Using the library is one great way to do this.
- Be willing to share. If someone else loves something I have, give it to them.
- Once I give something up, really let it go. Don’t dwell on it.
Yeah, that sounds about right.
For Those Who Don’t Want to Live With Less
An interesting discussion with my Facebook friends showed me how differently we all think about these things. Everyone has a unique relationship to her stuff. And not everyone finds it meaningful to live with less.
But William Morris has something to say to all of us: “Have nothing in your houses that you don’t know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.” Even if he wasn’t a golden retriever, in this, Morris was a wise man.
So I’ll stick with my original challenge to live with less. And I’ll encourage you to do it too. Even if living with less means only that you surround yourself with things you find meaningful and lovely.
And speaking of useful, we have only a few hours left in our Kurgo Wander Hammock giveaway. Read my review to see if it would be useful for you and use the Rafflecopter to enter.
Don’t wait. The giveaway ends at midnight tonight.
Your Turn: Do you have a complicated relationship with your stuff? Does your dog?