Today I had a call from my mom. One of my aunts is sick and not going to pull through, she had a stroke. I wasn’t very close to this aunt, though she was an interesting individual. She looked a bit like a short, wild witch, who loved to ride her Harley motorcycle. But it’s what made her fall into despair and sickness that I want to talk about.
One of her quirks was her love of collecting everything—I’m talking a dozen different vacuum cleaners, boxes upon boxes of clothes, multiple refrigerators—her house was literally overrun by junk. Basically, she lived most of her life collecting useless stuff until she barely had space to walk through her own house. One night she lost it all. A fire erupted in her basement, and she was suddenly faced with the loss of everything, including her house. Without warning, this threw her into the unfortunate disease of Alzheimer’s, and now a stroke which she isn’t expected to recover from.
Of course, her life had me thinking. Why do we put so much worth on material objects? It’s not just people like my aunt who have an obvious collecting addiction, it’s me, it’s the neighbors, and it’s most of the world. Do we really need to have the newest most updated i-phone, or car? Or, how about that T.V. you own that works perfectly, but is still not as cool looking as the newest model—what’s happening to us? Is society so perversely obsessed with the biggest and the brightest that we’ve forgotten how to actually live a simple fulfilling life without all the shiny, plastic clutter?
My partner and I try to make the right decisions by lessening an impact, we drive used cars, we use washcloths in place of paper towels and napkins, we recycle, and we have reusable bags that we keep in the car to shop with. But, does it really make a difference? I like to believe it does, plus we save the money to go and do things instead of sitting at home. And that if everyone stopped to think that, like my aunt, we could lose everything in the wink of an eye, or the breath of a fire, maybe we would be out getting to know our neighbors and community better. Living is exciting if we let go of the junk, and actually started doing all those things we seem never to have time to do, things that are healing, and happy.
So, this thanksgiving I’m giving you a challenge: put away your junk and spend time with your family, because everything else is not important, and share this same thought with them. And, if you don’t have family to get together with (I don’t this year as I’m too far away), then get outdoors, or do something you’ve never done before, like a dance class or some live music—and make it a new year’s resolution. There is more to life than the clutter we surround ourselves with.
Author of ‘Mile High Airship Club’