Turning Leaves and the Urge to Purge

This weekend, when I blinked, all the leaves turned. I was watching them carefully. I knew that there would be a quick turn this year, I knew the colors wouldn’t last long — you can just tell these things — especially when many of the tree leaves go from green to brown and crispy in a matter of hours.

But, we had a bit of chill in the air, and then the drizzle set in… and now everything is yellow and red and brown –and falling quickly.

And as we go into the end of the year, I look around at my own stuff and feel a bit like a tree myself — like I need to be rid of stuff, like I need to shed a few layers of “things” that are clinging to me, weighting me down too. Between the time that the leaves begin to change and the time that the calendar flips over to a new year, I get the undeniable urge to purge. It’s almost a physical thing for me. I MUST get rid of stuff.

Now, most people get this in the spring. They want to “spring clean” and have a yard sale and sweep out the old stuff in a ritualized fashion.

To me, that’s nice (and I even participate some years) but it’s nuts to be cooped up with all this excess stuff during the “close quarter” months of winter.

Now, here comes the philosophy portion of my post today…

We have too much stuff — as a society. We collect stuff, we treasure stuff, we pay for our stuff (usually with a high interest payment to match), we store, clean, organize, repair and house our stuff.

And soon, our stuff owns us.

That’s never more apparent to me than when the outdoors become less inviting and I begin to settle indoors for the winter. I start feeling the need to have cozy, and all I see is cluttered. Now, my family laughs at me, saying there’s NO WAY I could continue to get rid of stuff — especially when I just don’t drag it in like I once did. (I used to have a terrible yard sale and thrift shop habit). But even with my lessened desire and lowered tolerance for “stuff” I still end up with a ton of it.

I don’t like gift-giving occasions — not because I don’t like to buy for others, but because I don’t like others to buy for me — especially not out of a sense of obligation. For me, gifts should be because you see something the other person (whom you adore) would love. Something that would take their breath away. THAT’s when you buy it. And, if it’s physically small and takes up very little room, so much the better.

Obligatory gifts should be consumables only — something wonderful to eat or a product to use that’s lovely, something they wouldn’t buy for themselves because they can’t justify the luxury, and something that’s quickly used up and doesn’t invade their space forever.

We build these huge houses to hold not our family, but our stuff and the stuff of our family. We outgrow our space and buy bigger digs. We work longer hours to afford that extra space for the stuff we don’t use and don’t have time to enjoy — and often don’t even have “paid off” yet.

It’s crazy. And yet, the majority of the people in this country do just that.

Anyway, this is the path my thoughts take when I get this compulsion. This is what rattles around in my head as I look at the stack of books that need to be organized, the pile of papers I need to sort and file, the overflowing pantry that needs some system or another to make sense of it. This is the point each year when I think… do I really NEED that… every time my eye lands on an item in my office, our home, even my closet.

So probably this week sometime, I’ll cave in and do my “whirlwind” thing all through the house. Or, at least, I’ll spread the contents of my closet all over the bedroom to torture my unsuspecting husband as I inspect each item for fit, comfort, condition, stains, etc. I usually end up starting in my closet or in my office. And, I’m not sure if I have the strength to begin in the office this year. I think I might need the success of having the closet behind me, one check mark on my to do list, before I am brave enough to begin with the office. Then the kitchen, and the extra “spaces.”

But, I think this week it will begin. I’ve unpacked my office space heater to help cut the chill on my feet… and that’s usually when and how it begins…

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