“While most people whittle their days away chasing another buck, or a little bit more fame or attention, or a little bit more assurance that they’re right or loved, death confronts all of us with a far more painful and important question: What is your legacy?”
How will the world be different and better when you’re gone? What mark will you have made? What influence will you have caused? They say that a butterfly flapping its wings in Africa can cause a hurricane in Florida, well, what hurricane will you leave in your wake?”
I next listened to the audiobook of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondō. I also watched a few episodes of the new Netflix series Tidying-Up, which prompted me to find a copy of the audiobook book (which I checked out from the library). The funny thing, or sad thing depending on how you view it, I had a hardcover copy of the book the entire time. I purchased the copy at Goodwill about two years ago, and never once opened it until last month. The book isn’t just about tidying up. It is about coming to terms will the mountain of stuff that we own, what it means to us, and how it is hindering us. Without a doubt, most of us have too much stuff. I am guilty of having too much. I believe unnecessary items to be the cause of some anxiety and depression, and the overwhelming sensation of dread and not knowing what to do next.
For me, when I look around at all of my belongings, I do want them to spark joy as talked about by Kondō. It is very similar to the Danish philosophy of hygge, which also resonates with me. But I also look at each item in terms of what they cost me, not precisely the price I paid, but in terms of time spent to be able to buy the item. What did I have to do to earn the money I used to obtain the item? Was the time spent worth it? I also have to consider the true cost of the products in terms of what natural materials were extracted and used to manufacture and then ship, and what the factory workers had to experience or endure while crafting them. Each thing we own tells multiple stories. What stories do your belongings tell?
The consumerism cycle links that book back to The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck and to The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. We learn at such a young age that buying things leads to happiness. And that owning the big house or the fancy car or having a big job title means success. Between The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck and Meet the Frugalwoods, I left with the notion that each person has to define their happiness, and what success means to them. In all honesty, that is the same takeaway from many books in this genre. However, as I mentioned, these books spoke to me and my values. In all of my past buying sprees, yes I was happy bringing home new toys or clothes or books or gadgets. But I can also say, that I don’t remember most of those purchases and I am not sure they are bringing me joy now or even where all of the items are and if I even still own them. How much of my life did I have to give up to be able to buy unnecessary gadgets or clothes and were there rippling consequences that I continue to experience? Yes! Especially those purchased on credit.
By jumping off the consumerism merry go round, I save money, time, valuable earth resources, reduce slave like factory working conditions, and can more easily move towards my goals. To me, those are all solutionary wins! Which is why the heart of these books spoke to me. If there are ways I can move towards a more solutionary life, and live in a way that benefits my fellow humans, non-human animals, and our environment, as well as save money, then yes, I am all in!
I still go back to Manson’s paragraph - “How will the world be different and better when you’re gone?” I am trying to leave this world better than I found it. My grandmother instilled that in me when I was very young. I want to help create a world with a little less suffering, and that is a little more fruitful because of me. I want to help create a society that is more understanding and accepting of all, and help individuals express and accept themselves as they are. I want a world that isn’t defined by stuff, but by compassion. I want to leave a world that doesn’t have to label and categorize everything, every being, and everyone.
Our time defines us. Our stuff does not. We don’t have unlimited time, and we all die. How do you want to fill that space between birth and death, with stuff or with life?