“A lady once offered me a mat, but as I had no room to spare within the house, nor time to spare within or without to shake it, I declined it, preferring to wipe my feet on the sod before my door. It is best to avoid the beginnings of evil.” — Henry David Thoreau
We have arrived at the season of First Fruits. We are harvesting, gathering in the bounty of our winter hopes, spring planting and summer tending. Tomatoes are ripe, corn is tall and it is time to gather in. In to where? Your home? What are you gathering into the place you live?
I’m gathering in a strange sort of harvest this week. I’m packing my belongings to move into a new place. Although I don’t own very much, and the apartment I’m moving into is larger than anywhere I have lived in years, I’m still appalled at how much stuff I have. I remember reading that Thoreau once saw a man laboring down the road with all he owned on his back. While most pitied him for owning so little, Thoreau pitied him for having so much.
Paganism isn’t an anti-materialist philosophy, but it does remind us to maintain balance. Nothing in excess. Be mindful. Yes, be mindful of your stuff. T. Thorn Coyle’s recent article is about this very subject. Being mindful of your stuff.
I’m moving into a new space which is going to give me the room, privacy and stability I need so badly in my life. What I bring into that space is something I need to carefully consider. What I do with the things I don’t bring into that space is also something to carefully consider. I have things I plan to put on FreeCycle so that someone will find a use for them. Some things I’m recycling.
I also have new things I need to acquire for the space. I already shopped around and found a durable mop I really like, rather than making do with a cheap mop to discard down the road. What kitchen supplies do I need? Really? Do I need gadgets or will they simply take up space? What kind of food storage do I need? If I want to eat more whole grains should I make space for that? Do I buy cheap plastic containers or do I look around for a more ecological alternative? Do I buy new things or shop in thrift stores?
Our ancestors would have spent the coming months harvesting, canning, smoking, curing and storing away food for the winter. They did it with care and mindfulness. They made room for the things they needed. Root cellars of potatoes and apples, pantries full of jams, pickles and vegetables. Barns full of grain and hay. With a year-round food supply, we don’t use the autumn in quite the same way. Instead of making sure are homes are clean, dry, safe and filled with all the things we truly need, filled with things that will see us through tough times ahead, we just breeze through this season like any other.
This winter I will need a comfortable chair to read in. I need a well-lighted workspace where I can comfortably sit before a computer for several hours straight. I need a warm bed to sleep in. I need food in the cabinets. The things I need to make my home a sanctuary that caters to my actual needs are simple, and are things which require mindfulness.
Instead of spring cleaning, I’m busy scrubbing, cleaning, packing, dusting and arranging my things to settle into a comfortable winter. It’s an interesting activity. If you have something you don’t really need, why not put it on FreeCycle? If your cupboards are bare by the time payday rolls around, why not invest in your pantry instead of shopping for more stuff? If your home isn’t comfortable and you’d rather be anywhere else, why not clean, rearrange and redecorate it to make it a sanctuary for you and your family?
Our ancestors were concerned about their quality of life for the winter. They stocked up on food and firewood. Perhaps we should use this time of year to consider our quality of life. Is it a life full of stuff that makes us stressed and leaves us uncomfortable? Or is it a life that supports our well-being? What are we bringing into our homes? What we harvest has to go somewhere, and are you harvesting things you actually want to live with?