I’m trying to de-clutter my life, but it’s hard. One 360-degree glance around our home, and I see that it is filled with endless amounts of baby gear that I want to hold on to should we try for a third; books upon books ranging from topics of art, literature, cooking, romance, mystery, pregnancy, weddings, mythology and heaps of fiction; Leo and Rocco’s insane amount of toys that they adore; Maria’s art supplies and computer equipment from her 15-year career as a graphic designer and web developer; Barley, a sweet, devoted English creme golden retriever rescued from an Alabama harem where he served as chief stud; our aging crank of a cat who would probably prefer somewhere calmer rather than our home which, for him, has been turned into a race track as he is forced to burn kitty rubber to run away from Rocco’s sticky fingers and bouts of maniacal laughter as he chases him; an abundance of an eclectic mix of modern and antique furniture that Maria and I have acquired through our own purchases, but also inherited from grandparents who’ve passed; along with photographic time capsules of the life we’ve so richly enjoyed and of our dearest loved ones.
Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated. ~Confucius
My sense of what is “mine” in this world is heightened right now because Maria and I are moving George’s belongings out of his girlfriend’s condo today. Two days ago, we visited his 5×10 storage unit, and it was hauntingly sparse, mainly noticeable were the treasures he’d gathered from my father’s belongings after we lost him 4-and-a-half years ago, as well as all of his soccer memorabilia from his champion days as the star goalie of our high school soccer team. Try as I might, I couldn’t help but let out a little helpless gasp of hurt when gazing upon his small pile. After 36 years of life, this is what his life had been whittled down to in tangible belongings. But George wanted it that way. He was a real minimalist.
Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication. ~Leonardo DaVinci
I’ve already spent a few hours at his girlfriend’s house just a week after he died so I could go sit in his closet and lovingly select some of the shirts I remember him wearing and have them made into a quilt. My stepmother did this for me with some of my dad’s shirts, having a small lap quilt made out of my father’s plaid and chambray button downs, with a thick navy border, and now his namesake, my son Rocco Bruce, sleeps with it every night. He insists on bringing it downstairs every morning, along with his owl madras quilt made just for him by his Mema, and his monkey dog, a stuffed animal that Maria insists is a monkey but we all know it’s a dog. Alongside George’s regularly worn shirts, he also had his lettermen’s jacket with all his prized patches from playing Varsity soccer, along with his yellow goalie shirt and his purple-and-black (so 90s) goalkeep shirt. His soccer coach, Greg Huberty, gave us all such a better memory in his eulogy at George’s funeral of how amazing George was on the field and protecting his goal. They called him “the terminator” and he saved almost every goal that was launched his way.
I spent some time going through George’s top dresser drawer, where he saved every important piece of paper. There wasn’t much because of his minimalism, but what he did hold onto touched me to my core: George had carefully preserved every single tangible item from my wedding, down to the menu and the cocktail napkins we served that read, “Eat. Drink. Get married. Kirsten and Maria. June 13, 2009” Equally heart-wrenching was the discovery of Tyler and Sarah’s baby teeth and the artwork they’d given to him over the years, with little love notes to their daddy.
George held onto what mattered to him and shed what didn’t. Thoreau’s wisdom is what George lived. His accounts were few, his relationships simple, his belongings minimal.
I have more social media and email accounts than I can remember, a few of my relationships are horribly complicated, and sometimes I worry I’m a beginner hoarder (not really, but deep down the fear is undeniable).
There’s no way I can (or shall I say desire to) live as simply as George or as Thoreau might be directing us all to, but I am trying to reduce what I have, buy less, close some email and social media accounts, continue to disengage with people who only bring about misery, concentrate on only what matters, and let all the needless frittering over silly, meaningless matters fall to the wayside.
The best things in life are nearest: Breath in your nostrils, light in your eyes, flowers at your feet, duties at your hand, the path of right just before you. Then do not grasp at the stars, but do life’s plain, common work as it comes, certain that daily duties and daily bread are the sweetest things in life. ~Robert Louis Stevenson