Friday, July 29, 2011

Live Simply, Live Well.

by Rachel Brady

I did two significant things in July. I bought a house and I cancelled my Twitter account. Different scales of magnitude, but interesting parallels nonetheless.

First, the house. I'm something of a minimalist. Having a lot of "stuff" around me stresses me out. In it, I see things to clean, mend, put away, maintain, file, etc. Clutter severely impedes my ability to relax and when I'm around it I find myself powerless to live in the moment. Instead, I'll decide to relax after such-and-such is cleaned/mended/put away/filed/etc. So I try to keep "stuff" to a minimum.

Preparing for the move, I resolved to move only those things that I either 1) use or 2) love. I held firm to that and quickly discovered something. I'd been holding on to certain items because they were important to somebody else, but not important to me.

The main culprit was my father. For more than twenty years, I've moved (countless times) artifacts that once belonged to his mother, or to him in his earlier years, that were given to me because they were special to him. Not to seem callous (I'm not callous, I just don't like "things") but these items aren't special to me. I'm not sure when I became the family pack mule , but I handed that pack right back this month.

I think my predicament originated years ago, before I was wise to my dad's ways. I'm pretty sure now that it was directed at me in the spirit of: "I don't want these things anymore, but they are too special/noteworthy/expensive to give/throw away, so here, Rachel. A gift! For you!" I'll likely use this technique on my own children one day, so I'm not necessarily disapproving it. Just saying that I'm getting smarter. Slowly. My kids can figure it out when they're in their thirties, too. Fifties if I'm lucky.

In any case, my new home contains only those things that I use or love. Serenity.

Now, Twitter.

Twitter is not so different from my grandmother's old candle or my father's collection of 1970s airline silverware, which I'm not entirely certain he acquired via legitimate means. The reason Twitter is not so different is that I neither use Twitter nor love it, yet I've kept that stupid account for years because other people (writers, publishers, agents) say I should. But Twitter was my father's old end table. My grandmother's weathered jewelry box. It was a burden thrust upon me by someone else who said--rather compellingly--that it was very, very important for a writer to have and keep.

Like the PanAm silverware, Twitter held no value to me. So it's gone. If I never see another @, #, or RT, it'll be too soon. #goodriddance

My colleague Brian says it's fine for people to be weird as long as they know they're weird. I get that I'm over the top with my aversion to extraneous belongings and my diminishing patience for social media and the Internet in general. Those are my wacky, quirky design features. I'm okay with being a little strange.

And I'm curious too. What things are you holding onto in life--possessions, ideas, habits--that aren't helping you be your most fulfilled, most peaceful self? Are you in a place where you can identify them and finally drop them?


  1. Hello. My name is Maggie and I'm a purger.

    I live with hoarders.

    Seriously, I throw everything out, so much so that if something goes missing, it is always blamed on me. (Usually, the owner has misplaced it and I've been unfairly accused. But that's a blog for another time.) I'm with you, Rachel: I don't like clutter and I need things neat and tidy in order to function. Living with people who accumulate stuff and leave it around makes me crazy. But I'm getting better.

    Thank you for your permission to cancel my Twitter account. Don't get it, never did, and find it annoying. Great post! Congratulations on the house! Maggie

  2. Great blog Rachel. I think you're right to keep those things that are special to you, and re-gift :-) those that are not.

    There are those objects that bring comfort or spark memories -- and those that after a month, you wonder what the heck you were thinking when you kept it.

    Congratulations on the new house -- and new determination!


  3. Like you for years I hung onto things that meant something to someone else. I the last year I've been doing my house my way. In a house that originally was thought to have no storage, I now fin empty cabinets and a open living space.
    I've never had Twitter and recently got rid of my data plan on my phone. I love it.

  4. Rachel! I feel like you're me (only younger and so much wiser!). I am exactly the same way. Like you and Ms. Maggie, I need things to be uncluttered and orderly around me. I believe it's because I have so much chaos in my head all the time when I'm writing, I want my environment to feel calm. I am not one to hang onto (many) things. I almost had a nervous breakdown before my folks sold their big old house and moved because every closet, every nook and cranny, and the entire basement was packed with other people's stuff. My mom didn't want to let go at first and then pared down tremendously. She is now an anti-clutter convert (well, much more so than before!). As for Twitter, I never got on. Never wanted to. Am so glad I didn't. So I'm happy to have you joining me in the Land of the Twitterless. You will enjoy it, I promise. Best wishes for your new house. May this new turn in your life be full of joy and happiness.


  5. Congratulations on the new house Rachel! I've moved more times than I can recall and that always provides the opportunity to purge. We've been at the same location now for the longest time yet, 7years, so it was time to take a long hard look at what I've been dragging around all these years. About 2 years ago a lovely young couple moved into the house next door and so my purging/regifting started there. They were expecting theit first baby and were both teachers so with those salaries I thought they could use a hand. I unloaded about a dozen u-haul medium sized boxes of baby clothes through about age 6. I'll admit there were a few pieces I hung onto but the vast majority moved in next door. I couldn't bear to have strangers pick through them at a yard sale so it was better this way. Now the clothes are out of boxes and on 2 adorable little boys and it makes me smile. My payment for all the gifts, a new friendship with the neighbors, endless hugs from the boys and a feeling of joy that new memories will be made in all those clothes.

    By the way we just had a yard sale and got rid of lots of other things and yes, I feel better and can actually walk through my garage now! Whoo, hoo!! Thanks for sharing your story.

  6. Anjali, what a great story! Love it!

  7. I'm not a hoarder but my hubby is. Think it's because he had nothing when he was growing up, couldn't have a lot when in was in the Seabees--until we bought a house.

    Now when one room gets cleared out, he fills it up with junk. Of course he doesn't think it's junk.

    I sigh, sometimes say something, but nothing helps. He's 80 so I don't think he's going to change.


  8. Thanks for stopping by and chiming in today, everyone. By far, the biggest "collectors" I know are my kids!

  9. Oh, I am so right there with you on the Twitter, Rachel... I never use it, and, honestly, I don't really get it! Do people really spend their time sitting around deciphering those shorthand moments of other peoples thoughts?? IDK... But great post! I especially love your thoughts on airline silverware! I have some foil from the Apollo missions that's probably in the same category!