This parable about a raft can show us a lot about why we hold on to clutter.
“A person traveling along a path came to a great expanse of water. As she stood on the shore, she realized there were dangers and discomforts all about. But the other shore appeared safe and inviting.
The person looked for a boat or a bridge and found neither. With great effort she gathered twigs, logs, and branches and tied them all together to make a simple raft. Relying on the raft to keep herself afloat, the person paddled with her hands and feet and reached the safety of the other shore. She could now continue her journey on dry land.
This brought up a question, What would she do with her makeshift raft? Would she drag it along with her or leave it behind?”
Would this be a hard decision for you? I think for a lot of people it really would. This kind of decision is a big part of why we hold on to clutter in our lives.
For some people, the choice to ditch the raft would be hard because they have an emotional attachment to things they worked hard to create. It took a long time to build that damn raft!
How about you? Do you still have your college textbooks or binders? Do you have your doctoral thesis drafts in a box in the garage?
I’m pretty sure we all have some emotional clutter around the house. Usually when I go through my boxes of memorabilia I find I can get rid of a little bit more each time. The attachment fades for me over time.
For some people the choice to ditch the raft boils down to these 3 words: Just in case.
How about you? Do you keep a lot of things you might need one day? Do you have tools you’ve never touched because someone else might need them one day?
Many people live in fear they will not be prepared when faced with unfamiliar situations.
Many people live in fear they will have to buy something they owned in the past but gave away.
Many people live in fear they are not good enough (or won’t be perceived as good enough) unless they have stylish clothing and gadgets.
All of these fears are just that–fears. And when it comes to living in 2018, call me crazy, but I’m just about done with fear. The fear of missing out? I’m done.
Fear of scarcity? No.
Fear of other cultures? Done.
Fear of walking after dark? Fear fear fear. I’m over it.
I believe there’s enough of the good stuff to go around. By good stuff I mean food, clean water, health-care, safety, and forgiveness. I mean happiness, tears, friendship, and love. There is enough love to keep giving it and giving it. We will never run out. Do you believe that? What a powerful belief! We can never run out of love.
On a more practical level, I believe when I need something to accomplish a task in my home or on vacation, the things I need will be readily accessible. (Hello, Amazon Prime!)
The minimalists (2 guys who are pretty gung-ho about getting rid of AAALLLL the clutter) have a helpful idea called the 20/20 rule wherein you get rid of anything you are keeping “just in case” because you can usually replace it for under $20 in under 20 minutes.
An example from my own life
I do not buy toilet paper in bulk because I don’t want to store it in my home.* Also I don’t buy it in bulk because I’m not afraid of running out of toilet paper. When it gets low, I can drive 3 minutes and buy more. If my car breaks down, I can walk 4 blocks and buy some for slightly more money. And if both of my legs are broken I can order some from my laptop to be delivered tomorrow. If both of my legs are broken and the power AND the internet are out for 24 hours, I can borrow some from my neighbor.
Do you see where I’m going with this?
Tell me the truth. Are you wanting to defend your decision to buy your paper goods at Costco right now?
Girlfriend. You are missing the point.
Take a deep breath. I’m not asking you to stop buying in bulk. I’m asking you to be honest with yourself about why you have tools and gadgets in your house you haven’t used in over 3 years. (Sure, toilet paper is a tool. I use it for a job, therefore it’s a tool.)
Why are you keeping so many tools you do not regularly use?
Are you afraid of something? What is that fear? Is it justified? Is it a real thing? What would be so bad about getting rid of the tools?
We are so rich in so many ways. And you, reading this, are definitely too rich to be holding on to most of the clutter in your house simply because it could be useful.
How much you keep depends on many things:
- how much and how often you use a thing
- how much storage space you have
- your aesthetic
- your financial ability to replace a thing
Next time you are deciding to keep or let go of a thing ask yourself these questions:
- Do you have room to store it without taking space away from items or activities you use/do much more regularly?
- Could you sell the item to someone else who needs it now, then buy a used one when the time comes? (I call this using Craigslist as a garage)
- Is the price of the item worth the value of the space it takes up?
- Plastic Easter eggs and cheap halloween pumpkins (recycle them)
- Table saw (sell it)
- Blow up mattress (borrow one)
What about the raft?
Think back to the raft parable I started with.
The story is attributed to Buddha. (I’m not a buddhist, so help us out if you have further insight.) His answer is the person would leave it. Then the Buddha explained that the dharma is like a raft. It is useful for crossing over but not for holding onto, he said.
Can you apply this philosophy to the college textbooks on your shelves? How about the travel-sized toiletries filling up the bathroom drawer?
Just because we don't physically carry of our bric-a-brac on our shoulders doesn't mean it isn't weighing us down. Click To Tweet
Thank you for reading and being open to a new idea. I hope it will help as you walk down your own path.
With much love and not as much toilet paper.
*I have open shelving in my bathroom and would rather have pretty things on display than a lot of TP. (picture)