Two days ago, a friend of mine was robbed. Badly. Her house completely cleared out by criminals. I wanted to vomit listening to her talk about how quickly, silently and professionally it happened. Poof. Gone.
And now she has the tedious task of trying to itemise everything that was stolen and claim from insurance. Please, I can barely remember what I have in my handbag and I stare into it everyday – how on EARTH are you supposed to remember what was in that bag in the back cupboard. Spare linen, towels, Christmas decorations, that old tennis racquet?
Yes, she recognises that it is only stuff and that her family is safe. Yes, she is feeling the overwhelming emotions of how invasive and personally uncomfortable this kind of intrusion is, and yes, she has cried about the loss of her grandmothers wedding ring and her exceptionally sentimental items which are now probably on the black market. And yes, this is NOT okay.
We are privileged to own these things. Most of the world is much poorer than we are. And so, how can one not understand that there are less fortunate people everywhere desperate to steal and sell something to provide for his/her family, or replace their contents that were destroyed in a shack fire. I’m not using this post to open the ‘white privilege’ can – just to acknowledge the other stories so often not heard. This still does NOT make it okay. (It just raises lots of questions which I’m not going to ask here or now).
And so to avoid further (and very real) fear of trying to protect every THING we own with exorbitant insurance costs, anxiously double checking locked doors, paranoid we are being watched and targeted, feeling obsessive-compulsive about a strange noise in the night or whether we pulled our phone from its car charger when we left the car, how can we distance ourselves from this often very real way of thinking and living in South Africa.
I remember in Vancouver, feeling like everything was temporary. It was a great way to live. We drove an old 1997 Honda Accord called Seymour (see-more) because all we wanted it for, was to get from A-B and that is what it did. And if I scraped the wheel rim on the pavement – well whahh – no big deal. We swapped clothes and baby paraphernalia between friends and while we like nice stuff (and bought nice stuff) we didn’t need to accumulate because we couldn’t keep it forever. We value respecting each others things (ask my kids how I shout at them when they throw books) and know full well the result of buying cheap, buying twice. So we are not necessarily regulars at the Chinese shops, nor Woolworths, and yes, we do have some very lovely things I would be very upset if they were ever stolen. But we were able to fit all of our early contents into 14 boxes that sailed from Vancouver to SA, and this made life (and certain decisions) much simpler and happier. There’s something very healthy about living with little. And my minimalist friend Joshua Becker hits the nail on the head for me OFTEN.
In no way am I saying that my friend is materialistic or a hoarder. In fact I think she is one of the few who are not. This incident has simply made me think about my own life, and my own stuff and the importance I place on them, the value I expect them to add to my life and whether that is right or not. Also, it’s making me wonder how much less worry-filled my life can be, by intentionally owning fewer things. And I’m inspired and deeply challenged by this thought.
I’ve read about those people who buy nothing but food and regular household needs for a year. No new clothes, no coffees out, no spontaneous splurging. They challenge themselves to not go out and spend (and appreciate what they have and make the best of it). While I’m not one of those, I’m intrigued by them and cannot deny that they must experience an unbelievably extraordinary year.
Besides, stuff creates dust and mess. And nobody needs more of that.
Read more by Joshua Becker here.