Thursday, April 26, 2012

Heavy vs. Hovering

When we tell our friends that we are moving to Europe, a frequent comment is, “Wow, how fortunate you had already been minimizing and getting rid of so much stuff!”  And they are correct.  The move will be much simpler because of it, and we will be able to easily fit everything we own into small European living quarters.

But the nuance that many overlook is that a big part of a reason we are making this move is BECAUSE we simplified and downsized.  It’s not just a nice coincidental side benefit.  Rather, it’s actually one of the key causes of the move in the first place.

I believe it’s all about attitude and state of mind, which is backed up by your “physical” life.  It’s about the direction in which your life is already pointing.

So, humor me for a couple minutes.  Picture a 2500 square foot house (about average these days in the U.S. – can you believe it?).  Picture it full of stuff.  Not excessive, hoarder-level stuff—just the typical U.S. household.  Multiple couches, beds, dressers full of clothes, bookshelves full of books, entertainment centers and equipment, 2 or more cars, recreational equipment, bins of decorations for various holidays, kids toys and gear, house and yard care equipment, rarely used "formal" or "spare" rooms with rarely used furniture, etc.

When I picture this dwelling, these are the words and feelings that fill my senses:

Dug in
Pointing down, into the ground

Now picture a house maybe ½ that size.  Picture very sparse furniture, and none of it very heavy (i.e. beds with just a frame, no large, heavy head and foot boards).  Picture it containing relatively limited amounts of the items in the larger house, such as extensive holiday decorations, bookshelves, dressers, multiple cars, and lots of stuff in indefinite “storage” in the garage.

(bedroom = a bed room.  period.)

(Now for those of you who are already thinking “bland and boring,” I’ll just quickly interject one of my favorite quotes: "Minimalism may appear plain and boring to begin with, but that is only true when your view of life is limited to physical possessions.")

Anyhow, when I picture this second dwelling, these are the words and feelings that fill my senses:

Free space
Pointing outward, upward

The more (and heavier) physical possessions you acquire, the more you physically entrench yourself where you are.  I’m not typically a “new age” sort of gal, but I really believe it’s a life energy you embody.  I am in no way saying that a person or family with a big house and a lot of heavy stuff doesn’t move overseas (or whether they should or shouldn’t).  It happens all the time.

I just think it’s often slower and harder.  You have more to “lose,” and you have to sort of dig yourself out of where you are so heavily planted to look up and out, before you see or open yourself to the possibility.  You may not even think it’s possible, or focus primarily on the reasons it’s not.  You may casually hope that it would “happen to you.”  But you must make the transition from looking downward and inward to looking upward and outward, and there’s some inertia that accompanies the physical heaviness of your life that you must overcome to do so.  And even if you do go, you may find that you can’t bring everything you own; you must leave some of its girth and bulk behind.  But you “might need it again someday,” so its weight stays with you and you can never fully detach from it.

All I’m saying is that minimalism and this move are connected more intimately than you might think.  We didn’t wish an opportunity to move overseas would someday “happen to us.”  We were already ready.  We were looking outward.  We were open.  We had little to risk and much to gain.  We were light, floating—ready to seize an opportunity at a moment’s notice.  We were hovering.

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