Saturday, November 27, 2010

Limiting Oneself

When do we know when we have enough? “Enough what?” you ask. “Enough of anything,” I reply.

How much is enough when you sit down to eat? How do you know when you have enough clothing, shoes, office supplies, words?
Enough everything?

How does a person limit herself to having just enough of something before possessions flow over into the way-too-much category?

We’re sliding through the final days of the annual Thanksgiving experience. We should be able to answer this simple question before moving on toward Christmas.

If you move around as much as Sister and I, you would totally understand why this subject is critical to us now. We have both been sentimental collectors of things since forever--each for similar, and yet, different reasons.

We’ve both lived with abundance. We’ve both known times when enough was only what we could carry in our arms. For the last nearly fifteen years, we’ve also known what it’s like to have an annual purge of possessions because we’d collected too much of nearly everything.

Until we began planning this trip around the country, however, we had never learned the lesson of enough more completely. If someone loses their home to disaster--of whatever variety--the reality of what is necessary vs. what is luxury seldom weighs in. That we are creating--in a very limited sense--our own loss of home makes for interesting revelations.

We’ve come to truly appreciate the meaning of limitations regarding necessary possessions for living. Any good Hindi would laugh at us for this tardy understanding. That philosophy teaches to only concern oneself with meeting personal daily physical needs. For the average American, that’s a philosophical challenge of enormous proportions, sometimes on more than one front. For sentimental collectors like us, it goes beyond that.

How many clothes does one take on the road for year or more? How does one limit kitchen supplies when a love of cooking is rooted in your soul? Do campers really need at least one dress outfit on the road? Remember, there won’t be irons handy.

Necessities must come first. The rest is luxury. Our necessities: shelter, food, clothing, transportation, photography equipment, computer with extra drives, minimum writing materials, and an adventurous spirit.

We have all that. Everything else stays behind.

That’s where limitations come in. The purge has begun of possessions we’ve not used since we’ve been in Montana. Some things have been with us for many years and survived many moves across the country. No longer.

This whittling process for the trip and its look into needs vs. wants has shown us where our lives need to focus. And that focus isn’t on possessions any longer.

Our pot-latch will be the talk of the apartment complex. We have furniture, kitchen ware, assorted decorating goodies, you name it--even small appliances. Our storage garage awaits its own purge to allow an accommodation of its new contents.

Our Thanksgiving is winding down with a true appreciation for all things achieved this year. We’ve finally learned the limitations we must live by for the next year and are grateful for them. We’ve also learned, in a personal sense, how perception shifts with understanding and why limitation can be a person’s best friend.

So, I ask you again. What limitations have you put on yourself and are they friend or foe? If they don’t allow for understanding, purpose, and expression, they have joined the enemy. (As Bill Cosby would say, “Sort of like tonsils when they go bad.”)

If those limitations keep you growing, learning, striving, they could be your best friends. It’s up to you to decide.

Do you have enough?

Until later,



  1. Ooh, good one, Clauds. Having lived between two countries as a child, and leaving "home" early as I could, I learned this lesson well.
    I was young, so sentimental items didn't exist. I had bought my own flat. Worked for a minimal wage and put everything I had into my little flat. Then I decided to move back to Canada (where I had lived from 5-12). I brought with me one suitcase. I left everything. Not like selling, just giving it all away. In those five years, nothing had made me feel content. Independence, yes, but not materialistically. The day I left, my bed mattress was being carried down the street by old acquaintances. I left wardrobes and cupboards, a small fridge and oven for a couple with children. All I cared about was my new life. When I found myself in Toronto, I slept on coats and clothes for the first little while, telling myself I wouldn't be trapped by possessions ever again. And now, over ten years later, I am surrounded by stuff. I have more than I ever dreamed possible. And I have indeed thought, what if we had to leave? Or the house got burned down. Or whatever. There isn't much, aside family (including pets) that I would have to save. One antique box filled with my grandparents, my history (other stuff I love to bits, but could live on inside me). That's it. A memory stick of music,and I.D., something to cook with, bare essentials, and I'd leave it all behind for true freedom (especially if I didn't have to pay taxes!). The more you have, the more you have to worry about. And life is just too short. Enough, Clauds? I think we have too much as it is, in the western world. But not enough of what matters. When I leave this house, after Roz has grown up - I'm not moving it all with me. I'll pack a suitcase once more, and leave it all behind. I love what you are doing. :)

  2. Oh my goodness, I have a million digital photos of my little family. I must burn a DVD of it all and stuff it in my pocket. Stick all my writing on Google docs. And then there's some of my artwork. Oh, I didn't think this through. Might be two suitcases.

  3. Oh, Carrie, a gal after my own heart. I so understand. Sister and I have been traveling about this country for what seems like forever. If I haven't lived there, she probably has and vice versa. I'm thinking we're part gypsy--our feet anyway.

  4. Definitely some gypsy blood in there, in the right toe. You sure learn a lot about people, and yourself, when you move about. My husband is all sensible, so I'll probably have to wait 18 or so years before I can get a wiggle on.

  5. Wow Clauds, this is a great thought. We used to move every single year when I was a child (twice one year). Now that I dont ever want to move again, I find myself collecting junk. I dont need it, why am I saving it? Dont know. Just am. Maybe I should do a purge myself...after the holiday.


  6. It will astound you how much you have no need for, but that someone else can use. Even your pantry will need thinning out of all those items you finally understood that no one in the family would eat.

    We've been thinning for so long, long before this trip. We're just finally getting to the end of it.