... just think how much more, more will be!
Thus commented Dr Frasier Crane in one of my favourite episodes, where he brings in an orchestra and choir to perform the operatic theme song for his radio show. All he'd needed was a little jingle, but Frasier felt he 'couldn't do simple'.
An old school friend has got me thinking about minimalism recently. Mindful consumption: keeping and buying things we need or genuinely want rather than impulse buying or hoarding everything just because we once wanted it.
2017 so far has made me think about what's important; what really doesn't matter and should be put aside. So I've been clearing my way gradually through cupboards, wardrobes and drawers. More than ever I've been wondering what on earth possesses me when I'm shopping... and how I've missed this when I've been tidying up before.
What on earth possesses me to be lured into cosmetic free gift promotions? Yes, ok, I might actually want to buy two items (one to be skincare), but why have I held on to so many little packages of products I don't use, samples of perfumes I don't like, often wrapped in make-up bags I'd probably never use even if I went on holiday every month? Helping me to declutter, my ever-acerbic husband termed these 'pencil cases for the lonely', gleefully scooping a dozen into a bin-liner. My weakness is eye make-up, but finding at least 35 'free samples' of High Impact mascara just made me want to shut my eyes.
What on earth possesses me when I see stripy, Breton-type tops? Black or navy shift dresses? Different styles of jeans which at the time I just know are going to give me the svelte, effortlessly elegant figure I aim to present, only to find a day or two later that they're either gaining excessive elasticity with wear, sagging or (worse) pinching at the waist or are in other ways threatening to make me distressed even if they aren't of a distressed style? Am I falling for some jeans-related conspiracy: you'll never quite find the perfect pair, just so you'll keep the denim industry moving by trying again next year?
What on earth possesses me when I think that this new brand of shampoo / conditioner or what hairdressers importantly call product will make my awkwardly thick, disobediently wavy hair behave? Why am I seduced into trying a glamorous-sounding new fragrance when I know from experience that I'll always go back to something citrusy and light with all the relief of getting home after time with people who make my head hurt?
The more cupboards I attack, the crosser I get with myself and the more charity shop bags I fill. Working past the 'What was I thinking?' astonishment and the mild financial guilt, I started to get a sort of high from the growing 'throw out' and 'charity shop' piles. The crisp neatness of much-less-laden shelves started to feel like the bright Spring sunshine which was streaming into my room as I finished work on Easter Monday afternoon. Typically, I started to analyse as I folded a few last items into the charity bag.
Decluttering, mindful consumption, isn't just about stuff. I mean, I'm hoping to apply a much more thoughtful attitude to shopping, but there is more to learn. There's that typical reading-addict principle: I've started, so I'll finish. From now on: not gaining any pleasure from a book, which you're reading for pleasure? I'll let you into a secret. It's ok not to finish it. Hating a film, a box set or TV series? Same thing goes. CDs, DVDs, books - they don't all have to be kept forever. A charity shop might give someone else the opportunity to encounter that story or those songs.
And most of all, I'm learning to be mindful about people. Places. Activities. That person who clearly blanks you when you step towards them to say hello? Move on. That habitual Saturday shopping trip which has grown dull? Do something else. That restaurant which simply everyone talks about, but which you really hate? Don't go. It may be the law of averages but it's not actually the law...
At the end of that Frasier episode, Frasier's Dad helps him invent a simple jingle for his show. The orchestrated madness stripped away, he sums up what his radio show's about. I'm not going to go Spartan. I'll never stop keeping things which have a sentimental value. I'll probably always have a weakness for stripy tops, well-cut dark shift dresses, and the latest incarnation of those perfect jeans. But I'm definitely learning that more isn't always that much more than less. I'm definitely learning that too much consuming can be all-consuming and exhausting.
I'm definitely learning that I could care more about less.