This is a post about hoarding. Specifically, things from childhood I’ve lugged between 5 different dwellings over the past several years that for some reason, I haven’t been able to let go of.
This is also a post about how I ended up living with Geoffrey and finally getting rid of… most of them, by embarking on a crazy life experiment.
This is my pin giraffe.
The pin giraffe has been in my life as long as I can remember. It has a 5 foot measuring tape along the side. It’s plush. Until a month ago, it was covered with almost 300 pins.
I think how my pin collection started was something like this…
Adult: “What do you collect?”
Me: “I don’t really want to collect anything.”
Adult: “But you must collect something!”
Me: “Uh, pins, I guess…”
And so began my bizarre relationship with “stuff”; being told I had to have it, and that I had to keep it.
When a massive flood affected southern Alberta in June 2013, lots of people were displaced and many lots their homes and all their belongings. Professional organizer Sheri Bruneau wrote a great blog post about how it’s all “just stuff”, but we still assign a lot of meaning to our things and I totally get it (hello, I have been hoarding a pin giraffe for almost 30 years!).
Prior to the flood, I had plans to move in with a roommate. I had lived alone for a couple years and decided I wanted to save money and share space with someone again. Four days prior to the move, I was informed that due to the flood, I would be unable to move into my new place. I handled it like a champ.*
* frenetically checked out every place I could find on kijiji; melancholy gaze as I walked through desirable neighbourhoods seeking out “For Rent” signs, slurpee in hand; called my parents; cried
The next day, Geoffrey kindly offered me a room in his home but it meant that I had to downsize — fast. I moved from a fully furnished 750 square foot one-bedroom apartment alone to one bedroom, requiring me to purge over 80% of my personal belongings in less than 72 hours. I could go into detail of how many boxes and bags of shoes, clothes, kitchen items (there weren’t very many, I hardly ever cooked), pins, furniture and other housewares I purged in the move but I’ll leave it with this – it was at once liberating and terrifying, and it made me examine my attachment to “stuff” in a new way.
It was an exercise in letting go.
Shortly after moving in with Geoff, my friend Crystal and I road tripped to World Domination Summit in Portland. The conference challenged each of us to decide how we were going to live a “remarkable life in a conventional world.” Upon returning to my new tiny bedroom, in my new home, my new roommate and I talked extensively about “stuff”: our stuff, our infatuation with stuff, my inability to let go of stuff, and also, expressed that we both wanted to live our lives more in line with our values of community and sustainability. We talked about how we would need to do something dramatic to change our behaviours and the idea of embarking on a year of buying nothing was born.
Before we developed a plan for what this life experiment would/could look like, I was interviewed by Calgary Is Awesome. I was unsure if I should mention the project in the interview since we didn’t have a website or any of the parameters worked out, but my yoga instructor encouraged me to talk about it and gave me some great advice that has guided the project to this point: “Shoot. Ready. Aim.” So I talked about it. It was published. Now we had to do it. (More on accountability in future posts…)
“Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.” – Goethe
And so it began. We started Buy Nothing Year on August 3 2013, Geoff’s 30th birthday. After only one week, I can already tell it’s going to impact more than my hoarding and spending; it’s a lifestyle shift, a change in mindset and in my relationship with money, things and time. I’ve already started cooking more, bringing lunch to work, spending more time at home, purging more freely and doing the types of things I’ve been longing to do with friends (going for bike rides, hanging out in public spaces, making meals together).
I don’t know what to expect from this year, but what I’m hoping for is mindfulness and the ability to identify the things that are really important to me. Like shoes. Coffee with friends. And 5 foot tall plush giraffes.