A couple weeks ago, I found myself spending a weekend in a hotel outside of Philadelphia. Why? Because my daughter was visiting a friend in college, didn’t want to drive herself, and I certainly wasn’t going to make the four-hour round trip twice in one weekend. Sure she could have taken public transportation…but yeah, that’s the kind of mother I am.
There was something in it for me, though. I had a bunch of paperwork and other laptop-based tasks to get caught up on and I saw this as an opportunity to focus without the distractions found at home. It was an efficiency room, residence-type hotel that could accommodate the dog for an extra $10 (a bargain considering the added expense of a kennel or dog sitter for two days). Plus I brought food and could prepare my own meals.
So for two whole days I was self-contained and self-sufficient. Didn’t have to leave the room (except to walk him), which was a good thing because Enzo would not have been happy if left in the room alone and would surely have made enough noise to have us evicted. The weekend went as planned. I got my work done and also learned something. Simplicity feels good.
“Simplicity is the final achievement. After one has played a vast quantity of notes and more notes, it is simplicity that emerges as the crowning reward of art.”
— Frederic Chopin
Having everything I needed – and only what I needed – in one room was calming. It reminded me of being between houses when my daughter was a toddler. We lived for nine months at my mother-in-law’s home. While the situation was understandably stressful, it was balanced by the simplicity of having everything but necessities in storage and not having the responsibility of being the homeowner.
These are important lessons to draw on as I prepare my house for sale and my daughter and I for a move. A friend who did it last year advised me to spend the time I had in the year ahead to weed out the clutter so it didn’t become a huge job at the last minute. Good advice.
Not long after my parents became empty nesters, they sold my childhood home and began the process of downsizing. I remember finding them one day sorting through their belongings, which had been tucked away in the attic for decades. My father was tossing his WWII Army Air Corps uniform into a big Hefty bag. Horrified, I stopped him. “That would be like mom throwing out her wedding gown!” My mom looked up from her pile and said, “Threw it out two days ago!”
I didn’t understand at all how they could part with so many precious symbols of their lives that they had held on to all these years. I couldn’t understand it then. I understand it now. As I start to think about my own empty nest and moving to a smaller place, practicality takes over to a certain degree; but it’s something else too.
By middle age, we’ve experienced so much more and learned to value simplicity. We also have a lot more clarity about what is important, what is worth saving, and where it’s okay to let go. I have a plastic bin in the basement labeled “Sheehy”. It contains a few bits and pieces of what’s left of my parent’s lives that they, and ultimately, I, still regard as important. I guess that’s a good thing to remember. Our lives will inevitably become a box in someone’s basement or attic. So only hold on to what’s really important so it’s simple for someone to keep.
“Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.”
— Antoine de Saint Exupéry
I am following my friend’s advice. I’ve started weeding through the clutter and discarding a lot. Making donations. Contemplating another garage sale. I have china and glassware inherited after cleaning out my mother’s and my aunt’s homes, sentimental knick-knacks, and too much furniture. I think parting with meaningful things will be less of an issue than trying to consolidate the contents of a four-bedroom house into a two-bedroom apartment.
I went looking for help on the Internet and found some great ideas worth passing along…This is a great how-to: The Four Laws of Simplicity, and How to Apply Them to Life. And if you’re having trouble starting there, maybe read this first: 7-Steps to Inner Simplicity.
It has been my experience that simplifying my environment will calm the mind and move me closer to an inner peace. Less is more is a philosophy I have applied to my training as an aging runner. Keeping it simple assures my running continues to be a stress reliever, and does not add stress, both physically and mentally. The older I get, the more I realize how true this is for everything.
And here’s an idea for runners looking to clean-out T-shirt drawers. I have run close to 270 races, which mean close to 270 race shirts. As soon as I get the shirt home I take a picture of it. Then I place it in one of three piles: Keeper (will be added to my wardrobe), Donation (nice shirt for someone else), Tosser (usually long sleeves and sweatshirts, that I wear at the start of a race in cool weather and toss at the start – usually collected by race organizers and donated too). For now I’m keeping the pictures in a folder on my computer, but plan to make an album, matching them up with the bib numbers. Project for another day.