Items Non Grata
Moving from place to place Adult Third Culture Kids (TCKs) quickly learn to live with less material stuff. It makes our lives easier and is just much more practical. We learn how to pack the items we need in less than an hour. Experience has taught us to retrieve missing items no matter where, or even better, improvise without them. What works for our travels, can it work for our residences as well?
Four years back, I offered myself a present: a 10-day silent meditation retreat in a southern Thai monastery. After 10 days with just a few clothes, minimal cosmetics and a single pair of flip-flops, coming home was eye-opening.
My shelves full of items collecting dust. Sofas cramped in a tiny room together with a table and chairs, in case I might welcome a guest. My wardrobe full of clothes in all kind of sizes, that I’d look at and say, 'maybe I'll wear it again one day...'. Books I had read once and never touched since. Gifts ‘non grata’ demanding their space. Clutter upon clutter...
I almost felt as though I was drowning in my own apartment, which was supposed to be my refuge, my source of inspiration and recreation.
On a Saturday morning sitting in my favorite café reading in a magazine I came across Dave Bruno's book ‘100-Thing Challenge’. Motivated, I went home counting....
And I stopped soon enough realizing this would take me forever. Instead I went looking for cups/plates and other utilities in my kitchen that I hadn't used for over a year. Here is a photo of what I found.
Just one day after posting it online in 'give away for free groups,' half of the items were already gone. Stunning! Not only could I say I had "20 items less," but I was happy to know they found their way to new homes.
Inspired by Dave’s 6-step decluttering process, I started applying my own three steps to the rest of my possessions:
1) Committing. Yes, I wanted to get rid of everything unnecessary. During the retreat, I had felt peace and inner happiness that were obviously not based on my material possessions.
2) What Do I Really Need? I started with clothes. I go through phases. When I get a new item, I wear it for weeks until I've had enough or the season obliges me to let it go. So, all clothes I knew I would not wear again were packed for donation in Greece. In Greece – the country where I went to school for twelve years and that I now consider my home - we had no secondhand culture until recently. The stereotype had it that second hand clothes are for poor people only. Recent rough times, however, brought along some change for the better. Since then, half of my suitcase to Greece gets packed with clothes, both mine and from friends’, to donate.
3) What Has to Go? Week after week, I continued making baby steps. I looked at each item, asking: 'Do I really need you? Have I used you the last 12 months?' and 'How can you be upcycled or reused?'
This process started three years back and it's still going strong. Feeling a tiny bit lighter every day!
The sentence ‘in case I need it…’ is being abandoned, for good. It’s of no more use as it hinders me de-cluttering, detaching and letting go. Actually, it is how I started keeping item after item in the first place, all ’non grata’. And in case the ‘in case…’ situation comes up…😉? Oh, no, I’m doing it again! Habits aren’t easy to break, are they? Well, I’ll then mindfully consider a solution on the spot. Meanwhile, I keep de-cluttering until I stay with useful or ‘grata’ items only.