So far this summer, my family has taken three little family getaway trips. They entailed remote camping, car camping and a sweet two bedroom villa get away.
While the third trip was the most comfortable amenity wise, it was the one that sent me crying when we returned home. After returning from three days of remote camping without running water and electricity, I just adored my flush toilets like I never did before.
Car camping is always fun because you get to play "fort" and what this does for our eight and five year olds is priceless.
You would think I would have felt fantastic after our villa getaway but the devastation that hit me out of the blue upon our return was an unexpected surprise — and not the good kind. It smacked me right in the face. Life was good in that villa. Yes, it was vacation, of course it was good. I love playing house and hostess and we had lovely visits from friends and family. It wasn't the time off, or the amenities around us and the end to all that that made me cry when I walked into our home.
I walked into our house and was, almost immediately, gripped by an overwhelming feeling of being buried alive! We have so much stuff!
Don't get me wrong, I tidied up as best as I could before our departure. However, at the villa, there weren't a hundred knick knacks on the window sills, sets of clothes popping from the drawers and shoe racks, closets of blankets and tablecloths, bins of toys, books, books, books everywhere and on and on went the list at the fun house... After the profound peace and fulfillment within me, having lived so simply at the remote campsite only weeks before, I wanted to recount how great it is to go away to a place that has less amenities than your own home.
I thought, how silly are we that we torture ourselves with supersized vacations only to return to our now, seemingly, piddly lives? Wouldn't it be more uplifting in the end to do the opposite? Why not go on a smaller scale get away and return to a home and life that is bigger than that vacation?
I am not talking to those who have unlimited amounts of funds and time at their feet. In addition, if you have worked hard all your life and are retired now, go ahead and put your feet up on the Eurotrain! You deserve it!
I am speaking to young families who grapple with trying to cross off that perfect vacation they can't necessarily afford, but, do all they can to make happen anyway because, as a culture, that is what we do.
I am speaking to those who have a pretty 'inside the box' idea that a vacation means going to X place, spending X amount of money, to do and see X things... regardless of whether or not one can afford to do so.
Why do everything we can to save up for a short lived grand vacation to get away from our daily lives, only to return to it even less satisfied with it by comparison and less financially secure? What exactly are we trying so hard to get away from?
This vacation we so look forward to all year, is a snippet in the grand scheme of 365 days or 366. Is our daily life something we are trying to escape? Is it the busyness from keeping up with things? Do we need a haven from our everyday surroundings because the things we own, the activities we shuffle back and forth from and attend, the whatever it is we have to pay for to enjoy have distracted us from the simple truth that, truly, "The best things in life are free?"
If it is not affordable, why not give up the supersized vacation this time around and start to explore and appreciate what you can enjoy around you? We don't need to wait for the big expensive break to recharge. Perhaps we can incorporate a more manageable weekend getaway nearby and, hence, more often.
What about a day trip to the seaport? A drive to the lake or beach? How about an afternoon together at the museum? What can we enjoy locally as a family in terms of free or affordable area events in natural settings such as town and state parks, area offerings in the local paper, our libraries and historical societies, etc...?
There are quite a few more simple day trips and mini vacations we can take throughout the year which we can enjoy regularly. We can enhance our daily living and, hence, give ourselves breaks without having to hold out all year for the promise of that supersized short lived one.
What special activity can we include this very day that might seem, otherwise, too ordinary? Could it be a simple walk through town? Is it a new bike trail? Is it a blanket to lay on on a new hill?
How about an impromptu dinner alfresco on the lawn, the patio, the fire escape? Could it be a picnic in the woods? Any switch up from the everyday which can become routine and mundane can lend us the opportunity to look at things differently.
Anything we do out of the ordinary that is deliberate enough to cause us to stop, to see things in a different light, and to allow us to take a break from the busy and cluttered is terrific.
What, at first, can seem like a minuscule effort in the grand scheme of things, may turn out to be one of the best, most liberating segments of our day.
I scoffed at how silly we seem, to lose sight of the every day restful things we can do. One effort at a time, these little gifts we give ourselves can add up and make for an even more pleasant daily existence.
How funny that we can commit to ignoring big present moments, reminding ourselves, it is okay. Vacation is coming. Let us just get through this day until we get to that place on the calendar when we can breathe again.
When it finally comes, we can go do the big vaca thing, hit all the castles, dine like we never do and then return to our then ramshackle seeming like lives. I thought I hit it on the nose.
Everyone needs to have a vacation downgrade.
Don't rely on the teaser-this-is-not-your-life-vacation once a year. Find regular enjoyable things daily or, should you go away, keep it simple, rather than grand.
I concluded, we simply need "lessercations." Go with a vacation that highlights less is more. You will feel brilliant and refreshed upon your return to the life you truly do love. I realized, however, that's not all of it.
In our daily lives, are we missing what really matters by filling our homes with so much stuff? Stuff, stuff and then more stuff. It seems we are slaves to this stuff.
More to wash, more to dust, more to clean... I walked into our home after this minimalist villa existence and just broke down crying, feeling the chains of all of our things. Everywhere I looked, there was something I didn't need that belonged to me. Or, did I belong to it? What if I actually have... enough... things? What's more, what if I simplify my life by giving what we have and don't need... away?
Maybe it will give me less upkeep time and even more family, self-pamper or even husband and wife time. How about being satisfied and appreciative of what I have? I can try and keep our belongings in check and not allow too many things to compromise my life because of their cost, time and space, wise does wonders for the spirit and health after all!
Not too long ago, we purchased things we needed after much thought and savings. We would care for those things over time and not replace them until they were repaired time and time again and then no longer viable for use.
These days, we have two, three or more of just about everything. With so many products imported and often sold at a lower cost and quality standard, so many items seem so "cheap" and even disposable. But how much of our income truly is?
We have been on a three day purge, since we returned. You can say, "Mama went on a rampage." Room by room, we gave a limit to the number of items we would keep. It felt like one of those reality shows. It hurt. But, as we keep going, it feels refreshingly good!
Okay, where to begin? I get it, some of this stuff wasn't purchased by yours truly. Many items were passed onto me and you. It is so touching to acquire so many memorable items from Mom, Dad, Great Grandpa and Grandma on this and that side of the family.
But, do we really need a thing, an object, to remember these fine folks? Is it the fine things or the people we value and, if so, are the things supposed to bring them back to us? If they've gone to the netherworld, I hope not. If they are living, I hope we can make spending more time together what is of true value.
We can enjoy the actual person rather than the thing that binds us to our yesteryear with them. On another note, I have a hunch, if the donors are still living, you may have just inherited memorabilia of theirs too difficult for them to throw out themselves. They may have found relief in finding a different yet familiar home in yours for their precious objects, rather than wrestle over wanting to keep or discard them. It is less of a blow to part with it if it is in the home of someone they know and love.
Hence, in addition to this new item, you inherited the accompanying struggle they had over whether or not to rid themselves of it as well. At present, if you aren't going to rid yourself of this new item in turn, you get to now pass it and the dilemma of what to do with it, off to your own kids. They can then be in charge of the whole divide and conquer, decline accepting it, or become buried underneath the problem of someone else's stuff they feel badly about throwing out too.
Either way — ouch — it ends up in some tag sale someday and will hardly be worth the discomfort of looking at it now. To those of us fighting over the items at our relative's estate sale.... to those of us wandering around the flea market all too often trying to get our best deals with the money we could keep for a rainy day... to those of us who still browse catalogs, magazines, the Internet for the next best deal... STOP!
Stop yourself right now from bringing that new or old thing home. Don't do it! Really, it will sell for nothing at a tag sale when you are pushing daisies.
So, what? Life is short, why not enjoy you say? Well, first off, here are some inherent problems with owning too much unnecessary stuff:
- Someone has to keep it clean and orderly.
- Someone has to put it away.
- Someone has to pay for it.
- Someone is still paying for it.
- Someone could be saving money.
- Someone could be teaching someone little (or big) how to save money.
- Someone else can use it because he/she needs it vs. wants it. You think you can use it someday and he/she needs it right now. The problem is, you have it. And you have so much of it, you can't wait to go on vacation to get away from it.
- Someone is losing time from doing something he or she would rather do, if only there were enough time after the piles of these things are put away, organized, dusted, etc...
In sum: Too many things are bad news because someone always has to clean, put away, pay for, continue to find ways to pay for, isn't saving for a rainy day, is setting a really bad example for the next generation of consumers vs. producers or another "stuck in the rat race rut" friend, and is potentially living in the past and future and not nearly as much in the present. That's just the small of it.
What about the time it takes to upkeep this stuff? Could we give that up and, instead, spend time in a chair, and show someone little how wonderful it is to read a book we actually will read today, rather than tomorrow?
Might there be an additional fifteen minutes now available to teach that little one how wonderful it be still and take in a setting sun? We may find with less stuff, we have more time on our hands. After returning from a fairly minimalist trip to that villa I found myself feeling so overwhelmed with life back in the "real world."
Too much to keep up with at home! I didn't see it before. We just have too much stuff! And, I would not say we are at all hoarders but too much stuff is too much stuff.
We played house in a villa that contained the bare essentials. Eight dinner plates. Eight salad plates. Eight mugs. Eight glasses. One skillet. One large saucepan. One small sauce pan. Two dish rags... You see where I am going with this.
With such few possessions, by comparison to our life on the home range, management of laundry, dishes, clean up, etc... was absolutely reasonable. It seemed balanced. We found extra pockets of time we felt we had lost in our every day life for far too long. That kind of time loss may be just a little bit here and there but it adds up.
We managed at the villa because we had only what we needed to use. The amount of items we "owned" did not keep us so busy in their upkeep that it took us away from what really matters when you are on vacation or living your daily life at home. Having too many things can be a real problem in other ways.
I know families torn apart and unable to enjoy each other on holidays because they have taken the collection thing to extremes and hoard. You can barely get through their homes that are adorned with precious things accumulated over 40 years. There are no holiday dinners or birthday parties at that home. Ever. It isn't even safe to bring children there.
I know families who can't see each other because so many more additional hours have to be put in at work or their daily commute. Some, if they are lucky enough to have a job, have the kind that sacrifices hours at home together because things have to be paid for after all.
This worsens, however, when a vacation lifestyle has to be upheld. Now work is work. We all need to make a living in order to make ends meet and that takes us away from a life of complete leisure and relaxation, regardless of how much we love what we do.
I am speaking to the additional sacrifices we make in order to have things we don't need and to go to places we can't afford. We do this at the risk of making our daily living more uncomfortable financially and the stress of this intolerable.
Do we really believe this is the only way to do things? On the other end of the spectrum, I know a family who has eight full outfits for their child. Seven for each day of the week and an eighth for washing day. I feel at times I am doing laundry eight times in a seven day week. These clothes need to then be folded and put away. The more we own, the more time we need to spend on caring for our things.
When I came home that day, I heard something in me say, "Wake up! Look around. Sell or give all of this away! Life was good at the villa because when you came home to the villa you learned to live with what you needed, no more, no less. Let's start walking the straight line here and get off this labyrinth of a mess."
Here are my recommendations for where to begin:
- Find a remote or simple place to vacation.
- Realize what we can truly live without.
- Discover the pure joy of living with less.
- Observe nature. Experience its simplicity. Appreciate that the natural world functions without the need for excess. Everything that is has a purpose, or, one loses that tail that has turned into an accessory and is no longer needed.
- Upon our return home, let us look around. Do we really need all this stuff under our roofs?
- Let's ask ourselves, do we own this stuff or do they own us? (Hint: Do we find ourselves having to choose between having a disaster of a house or spending more quality time with the ones we love? Are our days a collection of, "I'll get to that mess later," or, "We'll have time to do that tomorrow.")
- Is the next most exciting adventure we look forward to so super-fantastic over the top, requires us to rack up the credit card, plunder the bank accounts, keeps us from seeing our family because we are working 683 hours a week to make this all happen?
When we finally do go away, do we want to completely blur ourselves from the life we lead the rest of the year? It is really worth it? It may be time to reassess if we are living the life we want now or for a fantasy dream vacation that lasts a few days or even just months out of the year.
If you don't get what I am talking about and you are happy with the way you are living, congratulations! You did not have my, "I am being buried alive!" breakdown.
I, for one, feel I previously had my eyes closed. Wanting to keep all 100 books on the shelf in order to one day find the time to read them all to my children (never mind we take out 75 books/week from the local library) is foolhardy.
Did I get to capture or lose time over keeping up with those, among too many, other extra things in our home...? I am going to continue to explore out of the box vacations that remind me how much I already have.
I want vacations that enhance my appreciation for my everyday life. I love living the way we do most of the time because we take mini breaks throughout our day. I think we are on the right track. There is something to be said for being able to sit in a house with less and less clutter any day of the week and muse, "Hey. I could really live and die here. I love what we have. I don't need more than this. And, in fact, I could live with less."
As such, I will continue to purge until I feel my view of this life is completely uncluttered. Will we never plan over the top vacations? Oh, I think we will for certain.
Will we miss the enjoyment of our daily lives until we get to them? I think not. The focus on our daily enjoyment of life must prevail.
Will I never buy anything again? Don't be silly. That is not likely, but I will, moving forward, be a mascot on the "something purchased, something purged" bandwagon for a long while.
"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." (Matthew 6:19-21.)
I want to feed my heart and soul with the peace I feel from being able to live a life more manageable. I want mini vacations in my everyday and a daily life free of clutter and distraction from what truly matters in life. I am going to try and live a daily life I am so content with, I don't need to suffer through it until the next supersized vacation.
Will I still lament coming home from a vacation? Sure. Nobody wants to end a good time. But what I will miss will purely be the time I was there. What I will re-adjust to upon our return, is the uncluttered place where, hopefully, I would always rather to be.