I feel Guilty. I have too much…
Paper. I have too many books. That’s what I would say if I were to finish the sentence. I go through my paper, organized in folders, notebooks, and binders, at least once a year, and I do the same for my book collection. Some years I’m ready to let items go; other years I’m not.
I suppose I should correct myself though. I don’t feel guilty anymore. I shouldn’t say I have too many. I could say I have a lot of both, but saying too many implies I should get rid of more.
So what changed my perspective? Ironically, reading and reflecting: “Simplicity does not mean getting rid of all your possessions but rather integrating them into your life’s purpose.” (Mary Gregory, as quoted in Plain Living, 25).
All the books and paper I have I use and reference. They have a purpose in my life. I don’t usually add to the amount either, unless it is something else I will use often.
So for me it was accepting that as a teacher, reader, writer, and avid note taker, I would have a lot of paper and books. What I needed to decide then was whether I was using them for a purpose or letting them collect dust. The answer for some items was recycle or donate; others I kept.
It was affirming to read that I am not alone and receive this advice from the book Plain Living: “…It was easy for me to give up most things but that I had a greedy mind and wanted to keep my many books. He (Mahatma Gandhi) said, ‘Then don’t give them up. As long as you derive inner help and comfort from anything, you should keep it. If you were to give it up in a mood of self-sacrifice or out of a stern sense of duty, you would continue to want it back, and that unsatisfied want would make trouble for you. Only give up a thing when you want some other condition so much that the thing no longer has any attraction for you, or when it seems to interfere with that which is more greatly desired’” (Gregg 25).
So if you feel weighted down and guilty about the amount of stuff you have, ask yourself:
Is it integrated into my daily life?
Do I use it rarely, occasionally, sometimes, often, frequently?
Do I get joy, comfort, and satisfaction from the item(s)?
Does it help with my job, hobby, or sense of purpose?
Does it get in the way of something else I need, want, or do?
In Plain Living A Quaker Path to Simplicity at an Ohio Valley Yearly Meeting in 1977 sums it up well: “Each must determine in the light that is given what promotes and what inters our compelling search for the Commonwealth of God. The call to each is to abandon those things that clutter life and to press toward the goal unhampered. This is true simplicity” (Whitmire, 22).
Stop feeling guilty. Accept who you are if it brings you joy and doesn’t hinder goals and relationships in your life, even if it means maybe collecting a lot of it. Just make sure your things serve a purpose and you can let go of the guilt.
May you find peace with your battle with lots of stuff.