As a child I always saw New Year’s Resolutions as a bit of a giggle. Some minor goal you’d set yourself in the expectation that a few weeks down the line (realistically two, at a push), you’d abandon said goal and get back on with living.
Typical of most of us, I picked up some nasty habits during my teens and twenties, namely smoking and alcohol. With age I became increasingly unhappy about wearing the badges of ‘Smoker’ and ‘Drinker’ and in both instances set myself the challenge of kicking these nasty vices into oblivion. I gave up smoking 9 years ago following the Stoptober campaign. However, I approached giving up alcohol in a totally different way using the autumn months to reframe my attitude towards alcohol and how it featured in my life. This enabled me to kick off the new year by stepping into a life of sobriety. At no point did I view my newfound sobriety as a New Year’s Resolution. I didn’t want to belittle the event. It was so much more than a resolution to me, it was a new way of living. I needed to clearly close the door on the drinking part of my life and step into the dawning of a new, booze free me.
A massive drive behind me giving up both smoking and alcohol was down to a shift in my personal values. As I moved into my 40s, neither habit sat well with the person I had evolved into. When giving up smoking, I found massive relief from the seemingly eternal cravings that haunted me, by adopting an organic wholefood diet. I totally embraced the organic wholefood movement subsequently trained to be a Nutritional Therapist. It’s easy to see how that in turn drove my desire to kick the booze – how can you promote an organic wholefood lifestyle while at the same time be knocking back the chardonnay?!
This gradual transformation and realignment of my physical behaviour to mirror that of my internal values has been an incredibly enlightening experience. I have literally felt the layers peel away and, without wishing to sound too corny, felt reborn.
Now it is time to peel away another layer. Over the past four years we have moved house twice. The first house move required a few skips, multiple trips to charity shops and the start of a new found passion for me; eBaying. I had always been a fan of eBaying, but the subsequent house moves that followed, the last of which was a significant downsize, have taken me on a bit of a journey in terms of how I manage the personal possessions I no longer want or need. I have also found myself drawn to the Buddhist concept of not placing value on possessions. With each item I have sold I have experienced joy knowing someone else will benefit from an item I no longer want, and a sense of lightening as my load is slowly reduced. Less has most definitely proved to be more.
The process has seen me explore other areas of my life as well; gone is the flash, diesel guzzling 4×4. My love of handbags will never die, but I now choose to support small up and coming designers rather than the in-your-face brands. Books that will never be read have been taken to our local charity bookshop. Even the kitchen cupboards have been cleansed and I’m on a mission to reduce what was a plethora of detergents down to a handful of multipurpose ones. I even spent an entire weekend in our death trap of an attic, slowly and methodically going through every box. The end result saw me reduce my personal effects from a dozen cardboard boxes to just two.
If you were to ask me to identify where this ongoing desire to rid myself of frivolous frippery came from, I could probably link it to a single experience many years ago. On a trip to a local auction house, I became aware of the endless boxes that lined the perimeter of the auction room. Inside these boxes were all manner of miscellaneous paraphernalia; collections of Toby jugs, pipes, handbags, shoes, photos, crockery, bits and pieces, odds and sods. Every single box was the end result of a house clearance. The sum total of someone’s life. Carefully placed into a series of boxes, assigned a lot number and put on a cold auction room floor. Something significant shifted in me that day. It was a permanent shift. A need to leave behind little in the way of possessions and a lot more in the way of achievements. A need to be more than the sum total of my boxes.
The long and winding path that brings me to where I stand today has given me the burning desire to set myself a new challenge. A desire to explore exactly why we have become so addicted to possessions. How have we gone from a society who in Edwardian times owned the smallest of wardrobes to one where today for many households a walk-in wardrobe is seen as an essential? Where do the roots of our materialistic addictions lie? Who is feeding them? What is behind them? Is it all in the name of capitalism or is there more of an emotional context to our perpetual need to spend money?
To keep me focused on the job in hand, as of 1st January 2021 I will be living my own Year of Thrift. The aim of which is to not buy a single item of clothing during the course of the year. This is likely to be my biggest challenge yet – I am more fearful of this than I was giving up booze!
If any of my readers have done something similar, I’d love to hear from you.