Monday, July 20

the noise of stuff.... and emptiness

I'm big on de-cluttering. I find it so freeing. I've never been a materialistic person. I was very happy when I travelled around Oz with all my worldly belongings squashed into a car and trailer, then just the car, and eventually just a suitcase and bag.

I didn't give it much thought at the time. it just felt like the most natural thing in the world. I sought experiences and connections. A change of clothes and my journal where all I really wanted.

Then you Grow Up. You accumulate a house, a car, a Serious Relationship, obligations.... and it's rather too weird, even for me, to live in a house with just a change of clothes and a journal. That's not simple, care-free, or hippie even. It's just erm, spartan. So of course, you accumulate stuff. Necessary stuff, then pretty stuff, then just because-I-walked-past-the-home-decor-store stuff.

When we left England to come to Montenegro, it was a wonderful opportunity to do a major de-clutter. I admit, I'm not a knick-knack sort of person and because I was always somewhat frugal and not overly materialistic, we never had a house full of crap anyway. But there was still stuff, stuff we didn't need. Taking more than we needed or at least really wanted would have been indulgently costly, so that major de-clutter was an essential task.

And then events happen in our lives that render stuff meaningless, or devoid of any serious meaning. At the very least, it just all seems too much. I looked around me one day last week and I felt burdened with everything I owned. And it's not tons and tons by a long shot.

photo: davespertine at devianart

My mind was needing peace, silence, space. All this stuff was noise. My soul is requesting movement forward. All this stuff was weight.

What I have the most of is books. We have a spare room in this apartment that holds all our boxes of stuff ready for that day we were to move to a new house. But most of those boxes are my books.

I am a keeper of books. I don't just enjoy stories and information, I enjoy the aesthetic of shelf upon shelf lined with books. I adore old and new libraries. Old cracked leather-bound tomes and crisp clean new novels. A mini fantasy (though not important) was to have my own room that was mostly library. Floor to ceiling, corner to corner, books, books, books.

The majority of my books are non-fiction, so before you think me too indulgent, I do refer to a lot of them over and over.

I don't collect, purchase much of or even any at all, in the way of shoes, outfits, jewelry, accessories, make-up, hair products, hobby materials, music, or film.
I don't go out with friends. I don't get manicures. I cut my own hair. I have no subscriptions to magazines. I don't smoke.

My books are my passion and vice perhaps.

And even these objects of adoration, have become noise. I'm as shocked as anyone.

I gave away or sold over 500 books before leaving England. I still have 700+ books.
So I'm giving them away. If I were in England I'll be selling some for the much needed cash, but ah well. It feels good to give. I just wish there were more expats here wanting books. The few that love them as much as me have small apartments and husbands on watch.
My eclectic collection seeks admirers. Cooking, health, and novels, find ready homes. Occult, spiritual, and plain weird-ass items are in want of suitors.
I wish you guys were closer so that I could pass them on to you.

I went through my database (yes, I admit nerdiness) and created a new tab: keep, go, ?. I have 500 classed as Keep so that's a great start.

I just don't need them.

That's a mighty big statement for me to make. It was never an issue about needing them. I do enjoy owning them, but it has made me wonder...

How much of what we own is there to fill space? A space that we have been lost to know how to fill. A space within ourselves.

We fill it with stuff, food, sex, achievements, study, work, drugs, chores even. If we are unable or incapable of finding the true need.
Because our souls know one thing above all else it seems to me

it cannot be empty.

photo: canislupusmoon at devianart


  1. Mon, I'm sure there is many a good quote about how great it is to have books. And wow, your collection is impressive! Also wish I was near you for the great book giveaway, I'm sure you'd also enjoy perusing our 4m x 2,5m book shelf filled with books, and not just ours, but our very wise friends also who are a generation older than us which would mean approx 135 years worth of reading between the four of us. It's such treasure to live with.
    Hey, have you heard the word gimcrack? It's the best word I have come across to describe useless showy tacky nick nacky sit on the mantlepiece kind of stuff. This is not to say that we don't have any, lol.
    And thanks for the comment you left, yep, having family close are a challenge but you are right, and I can easily choose not to let their 2 cent opinions affect mine. Still developing strengtth in that department, my contention with them does it though, so it's all good. (^_^)
    Isn't it cool how we relative strangers to each other can just get each other way more than family who have known us our whole lives. And yes, loving cynical, totally get it. Again, it's my stupid family who tell me to stop being so cynical and negative, they're foolish because they contradict their selves all the time! They use my life to focus on as a way of ecaping their own just because I'm making bold changes in making it better that is such a threat to what they have ever known and done. Not to sound too cycnical here of course, lol :p. Ok, stopping now.

  2. Your books. I'm sad to hear you are giving them away but happy to hear that you are freeing yourself in this liberating process. I wish you could come here or could've come to our old "home" in Canada to help me purge. I'm in no means a pack-rat, that label belongs to my husband. However, I am also NOT organized and would love someone to come sweeping in to add order to my life and belongings. Perhaps this is a calling for you? You should seriously think about offering your decluttering expertise to us clutter-keepers.

  3. Jenn, I remember watching Oprah once where this woman's company was basically decluttering for others. I think that would be perfect for me. I LOVE it. I don't think there's much of a calling over here though.

  4. *sigh* As much as I can understand your reasons *why* you need the silence of this decluttering heart still aches for your books.

    Books are definitely MY passion...I adore and worship them...I think its because they have been my salvation on more than one occasion in the various trials and tribulations of my life (and I don't mean that in a religious-salvation sort of way..but I suppose you know that). And then, once I had the kids, they became my legacy to them. We will likely never have a grand home and pots of money (because that's just not our raison d'etre, but we have BOOKS!!

    I can really relate to the decluttering though -- it is VERY freeing and something I'm long overdue for. When we used to *move* every 6 months and I had to pack up everything, we had a lot less *stuff*. Now that we've been in the same place for 2 years, the *stuff* has started to accumulate.....

    Thank you for this....

    ~much love~

  5. Hurrah Mon, hurrah! I so get this. I used to be like that with books myself. Now I only keep a small shelf full. It gets less and less and less as the thought "I really don't want this or need this any more" continually creeps into my head. Just recently, I've had a strong feeling of needing to "get my affairs in order" again and am releasing so much stuff. It's freeing, It's wonderful.

    I could see you as a Professional Organiser/ Declutter :)

  6. gasp! but the books???
    sorry, I'm not much help, am I? Seriously, though I get you. We arrived here with one small trunk load of stuff for our family of 3. It feels AMAZING. So much so that I want to burn down the garage full of our things that I so carefully categorized and packed. We won't of course. We'll move it and I'll feel the weight again. i'm a coward that way. But, for now, I'm loving it! And applaud you on your decision!!

  7. I think it is a wonderful thing.

    I too love the look of books on my shelves. But have have wondered, while staring at rows of books I haven't touched in years, what good this is doing. Beautiful stories and helpful advice just sitting on my shelves. Then I joined a book exchange and it was a perfect solution. When I am ready to pass the book along I just take it to the exchange and find other wonderous books to bring home. Works well for me and my son.

    A brave decision you made. And a good one I think. xx

  8. I have the same book ... issue. I look at all of the books that are simply 'taking up space', either on the shelves or in boxes. Many can be 'liquidated', I'm sure, but most are for my children - quality books that they'll be able to pick up and read when boredom or inspiration hits.

    We just moved - only a thirty mile distance - and I got rid of a lot. There is still much that I didn't get rid of and as it sits in piles of boxes, two months after the move I have to wonder "How necessary is it if it's not even coming out of the box?"

  9. i hate clutter, our life is very neat & tidy, but when i comes to handmade things, i could fill my home with them & never feel unhappy again!

  10. I appreciate your courage and determination, but if I was the one who had written that post the truth would have been all 500 books would fit in the NEED pile, and the remaining words are just bravado refusing to let me grieve. Because I might not really need the books, but I'd need to want them. But I am not as strong a person as you. And I am a hoarder.

  11. Hi Mon, I want to copy and paste your comment about blogging on Antoinette's blog and make it a post on mine! I so agree how virtual friendships are more meaningful than superficial ones in real life. And yes, def. suited to the more cerbral - that makes me wonder how we would relate in real life, lol, esp. as I find writing a good way to communicate but I'm positive it's ahelping my verbal articulation as a result so maybe I would be the same in real life, lol. Maybe we really should meet in real life to find out :P

  12. Years ago, we gave up watching TV for Lent. And went on a permanent vacation from TV watching. Then we felt so smug because we no longer filled the void with mindless media consumption.

    Then one day my husband pointed out that we still filled the void with mindless computer/internet consumption. And often fairly mindless book consumption. Sigh.

    We did a few huge book purges over the last 10 years. Got rid of all the college books I was carting from house to house and never reading. Decided to let books flow in and out via and to use the library more often.

    It's been freeing. We still buy books, but just as often give others away. I keep only what is hard to find, often referenced, or very sentimental. Otherwise I can probably get it at the library.

    Of course, I now have two boxes of books that I have edited, which I will probably never read again but will keep for posterity. Sigh.

  13. I was just saying to someone that there seems to be a big Shiva urge in the air lately - clearing the decks for a new phase. I'm not a 'stuff' person either - part of the complication of having three kids is the 'stuff' we have accumulated!!! But giving away my books? I'm not there yet. I am attached, I admit. I bow to you:-)

  14. 700+ books? Wow! I'd love to have an extensive collection of books but I usually avoid buying them. In fact, I usually avoid buying anything. Most of what we have has been given to us - family heirloom or someone else's cast-off. It's been great to reuse things or give them a second home but I got into the habit of taking things I really didn't love or even need "just in case". Now I'm surrounded by things that don't inspire me or resemble me. Frustrating really. But I'm slowly working my way thru it all. Good luck to you as you do the same. :)


  15. I understand your adoration for books. I've always been in love with books, since I was a little girl. I think I still have a math book from the 4th grade. I once sold a couple of books on Amazon that I didn't like, but even that felt weird. I have a lot of textbooks that I never sold back to the school bookstore.

    I, too, have a dream of having a library one day, though for me it is less of an indulgence--I want a place for my kids to explore books, study, do homework, whatever that library inspires them to do. So I've kept my books, even though right now, without a proper place, they rather do seem like noise sometimes. At least some of them. Like the old saying goes, "Too much of a good thing..."

    I was such a book collector that for a long time I forgot what a public library was. So now I borrow my books, for the most part. For now. :)

  16. Courageous you!! I absolutely relate..I have a strong aversion to *stuff* but somehow it accumulates anyway. I've just been learning about myself lately that I thought I could easily detatch from my *things* but hmm...not so...there is still work to do.
    Beautifully written.

  17. Wow! That is a lot of books! But I get it...there is comfort in books. I like books too. I have de-cluttered so much in the past 2 years due to 2 moves. It felt so good to give stuff up. I agree that you can't have a house filled with only a journal and clothes. But you can have a home filled with a few things that mean something. I like to look around and see some things that I bought or were gifts...that make me happy. And I want to live in a happy home :)

  18. Thanks for your encouragement everyone. I'm glad others out there understand my passion. chuckle

    And for those of you 'not so strong' - we do these things when we're ready for them, and not a moment before.

    Welcome Miri!

  19. Mon, I saw that same Oprah episode!ha! That's what your story made me think of. Too bad there was no demand. If I'm ever rolling in enough dough, I will fly you over to wherever I may be and hire you to organize me..ha!

  20. lol, sorry Mon, you know, just as one door shuts, another opens. Maybe you could just start living vicariously through other people's book choices rather than getting any more of your own, lol.

  21. this sentence resonated a lot with me:

    How much of what we own is there to fill space? A space that we have been lost to know how to fill. A space within ourselves.

    sometimes my mind seems so full. so full of thoughts about so many things. i find it necessary at the end of each day to practice decluttering my mind by trying to let each thing go, sort of release it to the universe.

    and i can relate to you very much on the book collection. i don't feel like i have hoardes of other things (except i do accumulate lots of clothes, second-hand is my favorite). like you, i cut my own hair, don't get manicures, practical shoes only and just a few pairs. but books oh my yes. i've been trying too to filter through to find ones i'm "unattached" to, to pass along to others.

    i hope this time goes well for you and you are able to simplify your life in all the ways you are craving~ clear out the stuff filling up the void, so you can address what that void is really all about~~ hugs!

  22. nice post. i just read something to this effect in a favorite book (buddha mom) that i am re-reading. i'm at war with my home. the stuff is driving me crazy and like you said i don't want for too much. but books yes (though not quite to your dramatic effect). i am however a magazine hound!!!! and i don't want to part with them, ever!

    but the other stuff, the 10 years of stuff we moved it's mostly all going to go because really, we don't need it.

  23. Kudos to you Mon! It is a big step de-clutter and an even bigger one to get rid of your books! I too have been de-cluttering and at the same time letting go of much both material and emotional. Things that no longer fit in my life. It is freeing to get rid of "things" we aquire and so exhilirating! It's that weight being lifted. I guess we allow the flow of chi to move more freely in our homes this way. I have to say, I do agree with Mystic Mom about Shiva...I don't believe in coincidence and it seems that a lot of people suddenly feel this need to do the same. Hmmm...? Either way, it makes me laugh because when you mentioned your books I couldn't help but think dreamily about how lovely it would be to aquire some of those books that may be of interest to me- yes, another book lover-lol! But in all seriousness, I think it's wonderful that you're making room for more good in your life, by de-cluttering.


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