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  • Lynda

gifting gone wrong: TOO MUCH STUFF.

Updated: Aug 10, 2023


It’s embarrassing to admit but I didn’t start to seriously consider the impact my lifestyle was having on the environment until I was well into my 40’s. I was an undiagnosed ADHD mum of three, so overwhelmed with life’s responsibilities and expectations that I literally lay down one day and couldn’t get up again. I vaguely remember the trip to the hospital with my husband. My therapist had called ahead, and they were expecting us. The whole trip felt like it was playing out in slow motion and both my brain, and my muscles felt like mush.

What I do remember was the hospital staff ushering me into a room and asking me questions that I didn’t want to answer. The fear of speaking out loud the thoughts I’d been having turned to panic and I started to mumble something about things not being ‘that bad’. I wanted to escape. I wanted to get back to the safety of my family and my home. The moment the words left my mouth I realised that while I did have a loving family, I didn’t feel safe in my own home. It was an extremely gut-wrenching and lonely moment but a lifesaving one.

Two weeks later, after complete rest and medicated sleep I was ready to come home and face the challenges ahead of me.

I’m not going to pretend I experienced any life altering moments in the following weeks, but it was close. I picked up The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying by Marie Kondo. Who knew!?

So, here’s the thing. This book is all about ‘joy’ or ‘sparking joy’ as Marie puts it. But ‘joy’ is not a feeling I had been familiar with for quite some time. Obviously, timing is everything. Had I read this book any sooner, there would have been no spark of joy to find anywhere, and I would have thrown the baby out with the bathwater and ended up homeless. In that moment, though, I was ready, and I devoured that book. Following it to the letter. I was spurred on by the belief that Marie and I were kindred spirits. No one had EVER looked on my cleaning method before, with anything other than a sharp intake of breath before trying to escape the room with their eyes closed. Here though, was a tiny, softly spoken, neatly groomed, Japanese lady, encouraging me to pull everything out, categorise it, spend a moment with it, and if it no longer ‘sparked joy’, I had permission to throw it out.

I need to be honest though. Spending a few moments being grateful was where our kinship ended. The idea of getting rid of most things heightened my anxiety. I’m sentimental, and I hated throwing things out. I couldn’t shake the feeling that I may need them again and that word ‘wasteful’ kept ringing in my ears (thanks Mum and Dad).

It hadn’t previously occurred to me that if I owned less, I wasted less. In previous years while my husband and I were mindlessly accumulating things, we were also growing fruits and vegetables, even farming our own meat at one stage. Raising chickens and cooking and baking for the family. Recycling, composting, and worm farming. Op Shopping was always our first option and most of our furniture was passed down from ancestors or bought second hand.

Sentimentality on my part, dictated that I still had many of my toys and books from my childhood. I still had my first toothbrush! (It was cool though; it had a rattle handle and completely rocked the 70’s).

I couldn’t throw out my children’s things either. I still had most of their books, toys, and I even kept some of their baby clothes. When it came to making these decisions, I always found a good reason to keep them.

For me, the hardest part of this process was the gifts. The people pleaser in me found it extremely hard to get rid of things that people had specifically wanted me to have. But under Marie’s strict instruction, I thanked those gifts (out loud) for the loving thoughts attached to them and set them aside.

By the time I stopped sorting, I found myself staring disgustedly at the huge piles of clothes, books, paperwork, and miscellaneous objects, sprawled every couple of meters throughout my home like giant piles of consumer dung. I was disgusted with myself.

Most people probably get rid of their piles one by one. Not me. As anyone who knows me will attest to, I live for the war between organisation and chaos, but chaos must ensue before the battle can be won. Those piles did not move for days. This would stress most; but it is where much of my thinking and problem solving is done. Amid chaos.

It was obvious if I didn’t want to live in a perpetual state of emotional exhaustion, I needed to change my behaviour as a consumer, but this was not the only problem. I couldn’t stop thinking about the waste. Where was it all going? Charity would only take so much and the rest of it was going to landfill. My chest was tightening with anxiety at the thought, because if I had this much, how much more did others have. And while I might be able to control my own behaviour, how was I going to stop people giving me things that I didn’t need, or want? It got me thinking.

Join me next week for Part 2, Marie, We Have a Problem. I will unpack a small chapter from The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying, that really resonated with me. It opened a can of worms, and I haven’t stopped thinking about it, since.

Until next week…

And remember, you can’t wrap a smile.

Lynda xx

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