Clean Floor

24 11 2010

The space of my interior is mostly empty. Necessary things. I can see almost all of my floor, minus the space from under a full-sized bed, a table. I sweep this gold wood floor almost every day. My long hair sheds, collects in the corners with dust and lint. I keep the floor clean. I sit on this floor, which heats the space from pipes below; circulating hot water which warms from the bottom up. It’s a well designed system. I walk bare footed from end to end, nothing obstructing the course and find solace in the act. The weight of possession can bog down a spirit in deceptive comforts, both internally and externally. When there is nothing to crowed a space, the void can arouse a feeling of need: a reaction to a lifetime spent wanting, desiring, wishing for something more than what we have; specific to the experience of living in a highly commodified society. So how do we turn off, turn around, confront the impulse to spend, acquire, collect and hoard? And how do we differentiate between wanting something and needing something without suppressing the uniquely human capacity to strive and achieve the very things that later fill once empty spaces? It’s our right as an evolved species to seek better comfort in an industrialized and technological society, but it is our burden as rational beings to seek understanding in those same desires.

As I cleared out the drawers of a dresser in my old room, I found a shoebox I had stuffed full of Hallmark cards. They covered just about every major holiday and spanned further back then I would like to admit. As I thumbed towards the bottom of the stack, I pulled out  a birthday card of bright colors, themed in Halloween. I knew exactly when I got it, and from who. I was eight, and he was Dexter King. I remembered my party: one which my Dad had gone to great lengths preparing: haunted graveyard, pumpkin-head fountain, and so much more that was overlooked by an eight-year-old. Thanks Dad; it was a great party. But why did I still have this birthday card? I looked at the hundreds of Christmas greetings, valentines from middle school, birthday cards from people I don’t even know anymore, and I couldn’t wrap my head around it. I’m never going to be featured on A&E’s Hoarders, but I found myself bewildered by my need to keep things that don’t mean anything. I will always remember that party, and I will always remember Dexter, so why did I keep all this paper? I looked around my room and saw countless other things that didn’t mean anything to me, things that I later took to the Salvation Army. So why where they there in the first place, if they were so disposable?

This moment has been the premise of my condition abroad. Besides a few boxes left in storage, I arrived to Korea owning the contents of one large suitcase; a duffel bag and backpack. The things I brought with me were necessary, things that required specific intention when I purchased them. I felt liberated by this weightlessness. I could go anywhere, do anything, without the stressful indecision that ownership has over our ability to think. Even better, clearing my exterior has in some ways cleansed my interior. There are no dirty dishes, there is but one dish. There are no meaningless trinkets upon the shelves, there are no shelves. And while I don’t expect my entire life to go without carless spending, I am enjoying the practice of thoughtfully considering my needs; now realizing how little it actually takes.

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4 responses

24 11 2010
kathie

Ah to be a former member of the comsumable society. I am currently going through the stuff that I have accumulated over the years and asking myself the same question “why did I keep this?” – some is for memories, some is just ?. It is liberating. I have realized that I don’t need more storage space – I truly now understand the phrase less is more. I don’t think I will ever get to the place you are at -there is one thing I can’t seem to let go – my shoes! Love ya!

24 11 2010
Sebastian

Amen to that! While I may not know exactly what you are experiencing in Korea, I can certainly relate to the feeling of freedom you get after you loose everything. 2009 was a rough year for me to say the least. 2010 has been a rebuilding and refocusing year, so here’s hoping 2011 is a great year for us all.

25 11 2010
whitneybutler

The funny thing is that I don’t think this heightened type of consumerism I’m describing is very hard to manage even in a society that encourages frivolous spending. We shouldn’t try and fight the machine just our relationship to it. I could have always been more aware of my spending, but I couldn’t see it as clearly until it was in perspective.

@Sebastian: Sounds like having a bad year put the new one in focus. Without the bad we can not fully appreciate the good. And yes, I too am looking forward to a new year. I can’t even imagine what 2011 will be like.

18 09 2011
Rachel

Whitney,
Your constant re-evaluation of the world around you is refreshing and humbling. Yet, just for my nature, I can’t help but keep things that remind me of experiences – the details of which would soon escape me. I also feel like I’ll need more than you had because I intend to *live* in my apartment. ^-~

I’m realizing just how much I need to get to be able to get settled in here. Things for housekeeping, things for cooking, things for storing that which I will need in the foreseeable future. I don’t know how much of these things are things that I could, realistically, do without. Nonetheless, at the moment, they seem necessary.

Then again, I’ve always been a packrat. ^-^
Much Love.

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