Patterns for consumerism are so easy to slide into. This way of being and relating to the world has become so innate that it feels normal. Our family is dedicated to reducing the number of purchases we make, but still, we end up slipping into the mind trap of ‘consumption means progress.’
We are just edging away from a very busy season in our lives. We completed a tiny home project where we converted the unfinished addition to our home into a 400 sq. ft. apartment. The result is wonderful. The apartment turned out great and we now have some of our best friends living with us on the farm! Although it is easy to minimize what a labour of love this project was now that it’s complete, the truth is, it was hard work. There were many late nights, a lot of frustration and an overall exhaustion that befell our home. What the project meant was many months of stretching ourselves to our maximum edges and beyond them some days in order to get the project done. This had a trickle down effect for our children. Not only were we as parents strapped for energy, but our children were parched for attention and authentic connection.
Part of the process of creating the backhouse apartment was accumulating many items. We tried to use as much recycled material as possible, but not everything we accumulated was able to be used. We were in the state of increasing our volume of ‘stuff’ for nearly a year. With little time to manage it all, things became heaped upon each other making a giant mess of our workshop and parts of our yard. We just simply didn’t have the space to deal with it all. We have been feeling the pressure of disorganization and our inability to keep up with the demands of maintenance around the farm. Every job has taken many times longer because tools haven’t been put away properly and oftentimes we need to sift through piles of items to locate what we need! It’s easy to recognize in hindsight how inefficient this is. But at the same time, it is with a compassionate heart that I recognize how very hard we worked. It is real to say that the project would not have been finished if we took the time to tidy as we went. We were doing the very best we could and it was still impossible to stay on top of it all! Our lives are very full! Between homeschooling and caring for our children, running a farm, my full time job, Rob’s nursery business, an auto-immune paleo diet and the related health issues, not to mention everything else life brings! There was no time for management since life required us to push forward in order to keep our heads above water.
This year when garage sale season rolled around, I was in full accumulation mode! I was excited as I always am to experience the thrill of finding something unexpected that someone else no longer needs. Weary from a year of full time work, I was ready to hit the streets and find the bargains, as well as some instant gratification! It’s amazing how alluring it can be to experience that thrill of a great find. It was also appealing to run away from our trashed and neglected homestead. The draw was somehow to finding that perfect ‘something new’ that would fix it all. This thought of course was not so overt on the three Saturdays I spent driving around shopping from people’s driveways. My subconscious wanted the solution to cleaning up our lives to be easy. But the reality is, even if I found the item that could revolutionize our lives, I would not be any further ahead in doing the actual work of implementing it!
“Bandaids don’t fix bullet holes.”
~ Taylor Swift
I had been feeling exhilaration at going to yard sales and coming home with new items. But beneath the surface there was also a dissatisfaction with how my time had been spent. After a morning wandering from home to home buying what other people didn’t want anymore, my children and I were more connected to the stuff we toted home than each other. This commodification of our lives wasn’t really made clear to me until Rob and I were talking through our plans for today.
Today is the day when the wealthy neighbourhood nearby has their town-wide yard sales. The town is renowned for having great stuff and people travel from all over to attend. I try to go every year, arriving at 7am before things get picked over and the crowds show up around 10. I usually find some clothes for myself, some Christmas presents for my children and a few odds and ends for Rob, the household or the farm. More stuff.
We have been talking about looking for ways to live more authentically as of late. We’ve been lamenting about the state of our homestead. We’ve been working through how to meaningfully connect with our children while still getting the work done. We’ve taken action for change in our lives when I accepted a new part time job for next year. We are sacrificing money for the lifestyle we want. Yet here, on this Saturday, one of the two precious days I have with my children, I’m willing to get up early and go to yard sales without them, or drag them around looking at things I don’t really want them to buy. It became clear to Rob (before me) that this was a juxtaposition of our values. What were we really choosing to value here?
It took me some time. I had to sit with the decision for an hour or so. I had to feel it. I had to acknowledge my emotional connection to the event. To wanting to find the deals. I had to get real about how much I was valuing stuff. I had to get honest about valuing stuff over the people in my life. Not easy ideas to rumble with. It became clear over the course of my hour mulling it over that what I really want for my life is not found at any yard sale. Used or not, cheap or not, I was still bringing home mounds more stuff! And the inevitable work that comes with managing it. It is work to find a place for it, organize it, deal with what has to go because we have something new to fill the space, and so on. I was able to realize the whole picture…that the management of stuff is not how I want to spend my time.
In our over-scheduled consumer-driven culture, we have to make a concentrated effort to create space. Not just physical space, because our 50 acres can hold it all! The type of space I’m seeking is in freedom. By clearing things from our lives, both tangible and time drains, we can clear the mental and emotional space needed to see what we really want for ourselves and our families. Space has the potential to highlight for us what is not serving. Had we had more space during the backhouse renovation, we could have kept things more orderly. So now, when I do have the choice…I’d like to make it.
If you want freedom, you’ve got to fight for it.
So…we stayed home this morning. We spent time fixing fences and plugging holes in the barn where the mink got in. We tidied the yard where the children had made a village out of recycling that had since been abandoned. We played with ducklings and chicks. We cleaned the bathroom together. We read books. I washed the cupboard faces. We played lego. I swept the floor for the first time in 2 weeks. We connected. To our stuff…the stuff we already own. To our homestead. To our animals.