In fact, minimizing my material possessions will be a Maximum Challenge.
While I have often mused to my husband, colleagues, and college roommates that I’d like nothing better than to sell all of my worldly goods and move to a thatched hut on the beach of a tropical island, I’d be lying if I said I were a stranger to the shopping mall …
Alas, a spending virgin I am not.
Instead, my average American, consumer-rich family of four (plus the iconic golden retriever), has managed to accumulate enough “stuff” to fill two homes, a boat, a camper van, and a garage through which I’ve yet to clear a path. I’ve got boxes of “stuff” I haven’t seen since college (which, I hate to admit, was so long ago that the loans are nearly paid in full). My parents have boxes brimming with my childhood memories–I’ve got stuff living in attics of homes that I haven’t lived in for decades.
Yet, while I spend countless hours folding the heaping piles of laundry consuming my bedroom floor, and days upon days of my life organizing my children’s toys into neatly labeled containers, I’m dreaming about that tropical island more and more every day. (And not just so I can go buy the Tommy Bahama bathing suit with the built-in spanx that I’ve been lusting after all summer … though you have to admit … genius, right?)
No, instead, I’m longing for carefree days of playing and laughing with my children without a single responsibility. Laundry? What’s that? I only have this tummy-sucker swim suit and this white-linen-fitted-halter-coverup. One will dry while I wear the other. Dishes? We eat straight from the coconut shell. Sweep? Our floor is made of sand, what do you want from me? My overflowing email inbox? I’ll send you a smoke signal from the beach fire tonight.
Unfortunately, my island is not located in the South Pacific. Although I could argue that rain fall in the Pacific Northwest could rival most tropical rain forests, the point here is that I need my rubber boots, and rain coat, and jeans and sweatshirts and baseball caps, and that’s just in the spring. Layering is an art perfected in Seattle, and it requires a closet full of the right fabrics and colors and sizes … you see my dilemma?
I digress. My Minimal Challenge is to minimize my material possessions while maximizing the time spent with my family … teaching my children to value experiences, build relationships, and make life-long memories regardless of the “stuff” that surrounds (and threatens to engulf) us.
I’ve been doing some reading on the subject. There’s this great site by a guy named Dave who sets forth the rules for his 100 Things Challenge. Mind you, everyone’s challenge is different. And I’m not suggesting that anyone try to run before they walk. You can’t just go cold turkey on your possessions. We are Americans, after all. There is an American Dream of capitalist consumerism to uphold. And, as my favorite (Canadian) aunt so gently reminded me when I announced my intentions to take this challenge … I probably have 100 pairs of shoes alone …
Nevertheless, this is the journey of how one American family will rise to the challenge and minimize the material noise in our lives. Stay with me here …