A life less encumbered …

In last week’s post I compared walking the Camino Trail to our life’s journey. less

Both require endurance. Both often necessitate we divest ourselves of the unnecessarily heavy loads we carry. For those walking the Camino it usually means emptying their knapsacks and even leaving sleeping bags behind. In life it can mean getting rid of possessions, walking away from relationships, moving to smaller homes or relocating to different cities. Both also provide us with the opportunity to unload the emotional baggage that tends to bog us down.

I’ve spent the week thinking, on and off, about the changes I’ve made in my life over the years. What I’ve

left behind.

Surprisingly, leaving my hometown of Montreal, where I was born and raised, where I still had many friends, a lot of family including my parents and a man with whom I was involved was a lot easier than you would have thought. Looking back, I didn’t angst over it, even for a minute. I’d already been spending so much time in Toronto it felt like home. And I guess I was just so excited about the new opportunities and the adventure I was about to embark on, there was no reason for doubt or drama.

Much more difficult was walking away from a one-sided, toxic relationship that went on far too long. Hard to believe I’d ever fall for a guy who took much more than he ever gave, but there you have it. Mental, physical, spiritual and emotional attraction is a very powerful aphrodisiac. And it’s addictive. Eventually I reached the point where I knew I had to extricate myself, but I always had dozens of reasons (excuses) for why ‘now’ wasn’t the right time. The ‘right time’ finally came on the heels of a silly, meaningless, innocuous little lie he told me — and wham — I was gone and he was history. In a nano second. And I’ve never looked back.

That was a biggie. But I can’t tell you how much lighter I felt when I drove away from him for the last time.

When it comes to mistakes, I’m pretty good at letting go. They are great opportunities for personal growth so I tend to cut myself some slack, learn the lessons they come with and wave them good-bye. At least most of the time. There is one doozy I made that still tortures me a bit but I’m working on it.

Interesting how it’s often easier to forgive other people than it is to forgive yourself. What complicated creatures we are.

‘Things’ are often difficult for me to part with. Not because of their material value — because of their sentimental value. I had a lot of beautiful antiques — and furniture to house them in — from my parents. Actually antique collecting was more a passion of my father’s than my mother’s. My paternal grandmother was a dealer of sorts in her younger days. And she and my father introduced me to auctions and the joy of collecting when I was still a kid.

Over the years my taste changed, a lot of the furniture was big and cumbersome and I wanted to move. I knew I’d never find another place big enough to house it all. Even though my dad had passed away by then, I was guilt-ridden at the thought of selling the things he’d loved and so lovingly and generously gave me — and also collected with me. But it was my mother who set me straight.

“Sell it, Fransi. Sell all of it. Live your life the way you want. The memories you have that are associated with all that stuff will always be with you. That’s what’s important. The things mean nothing in and of themselves. They’re just things. Get rid of them.”

She was right. It’s been about fifteen years since I sold it all. I don’t miss any of it. But I still smile whenever I think of how much fun I had going to the auctions with my father and the thrill when our bid turned out to be the winning bid — especially when we knew we’d really scored and gotten a great deal. I remember each and every piece. I remember admiring them, dusting and polishing them, using them and enjoying them. And I sincerely hope they ended up in good homes, where they’re creating happy memories all over again.

Talk about a major aha moment. Ever since it’s been a lot easier for me to sell or give things away. It’s also now a lot easier for me to accept that certain relationships — be they personal or business — just aren’t working, and probably never will. And difficult as it is for me to admit defeat, I know I just have to cut my losses and move on. Thankfully it doesn’t happen often.

Now I’m at the point in my life where I really do believe less is more. The question I ask myself constantly is, “What do I really need?” It’s amazing how little it is.

My cats. Definitely no leaving them behind. My friends.  My books. No matter where in the world I might ever move, my books are coming with me. It’s interesting. I was downloading ebooks for a while — I did get caught up in the instant gratification. But I’m over it. I’m back to buying the real thing. My computer. Must have my trusty MacBook Air. But I no longer need an iPad. Happy to let that go.

It’s taken me a very long time but I think I could now survive very nicely with a very limited wardrobe; and I’m going to put it to the test. I’m ready to get rid of a lot more than I ever would have been before. My goal is to end up with empty drawers and a half-filled closet. I’m prepared to be brutal. Same with my cosmetics. Into the trash bin they’re going.

Only what’s essential. Only what’s meaningful. Only what I can carry easily. That’s all I want now.

And you? What, of anything, are you prepared to live without?  What’s worth keeping for you?

15 thoughts on “A life less encumbered …

  1. People are one thing, things another. Only a few of the books do I need (though whittling them down would be a task I’d hate to face!). If I could have one instant wish today it would be a big lorry to cart away all the surplus stuff I don’t need. It would leave me very little. And that, after all, is fine. Things don’t smile back at you. People do… and so do memories.

  2. I believe you have set us all thinking along the same lines Fransi – things I could live without, starting with a whittled down wardrobe, I keep looking at the book shelf well what I can see of it and thinking that, that, that and that could go but then again maybe I would reread, dilemma after dilemma, what I could not envisage living without – my wife, family and close friends, my record collection, my radio, cd/record player and would you believe my cassette player – I could live without all this modern technology but then again when I think about that it is a great way of communicating with friends I will never have the chance to get to know personally, so that thought of living on a desert island will have to be put on the back boiler for some time to come.

    • A desert island with a large bookcase would do nicely. And perhaps guest accommodations on a nearby island — with limited by-invitation-only access to mine :). Haha …

  3. Sounds like you and I are on the same page these days. I’ve canceled my digital magazine subscriptions and stopped reading books on my iPad. I miss libraries and bookstores and holding a book in my hands. And I am experimenting with minimizing my wardrobe (not buying more, repurposing what I have) and cosmetics (I loathe the stuff). Over the past year or so I’ve given some “special” things I’ve been saving away. I don’t miss them. One friend who received a few things thought I was losing my mind! But she loves and uses what I gave her and it was just gathering dust in my closet.

    One day I might be able to pare my belongings down to a backpack’s worth but not yet.

  4. Wise choices, Fransi. You are setting the bar high for all of us … and that’s a good thing! However, one item that HAS helped me lighten one load is my iPad. I am definitely a convert to ebooks. I love having my entire library with me and not gathering dust on bookshelves in a location where I am not. I’ve donated most of my print books to university book drives … and have worked through the guilt of saying goodbye to paper! Now to attack the closet! I’ll be looking for your updates! Bonne continuation!

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