Wednesday, 6 February 2008

Stuff


I know I’ve blogged Hexagram 41 before – last July, actually. But when I threw the I Ching on New Year’s Eve for a guiding theme for 2008, that’s what it handed me. And it’s going swimmingly thus far.

To briefly recap Hexagram 41, it’s Decrease, or Decreasing. It’s all about shedding what you no longer need, and making the space to move forward.

On my return to the UK, one of the emails waiting for me had a link to “The Story of Stuff”: (http://www.storyofstuff.com/), quite a worthwhile little 20-minute video, about the real cost to our world of the ‘stuff’ we manufacture, buy, and dispose of.

This added to my growing feeling of how uncomfortably cluttered my life is, and not only with 'stuff'; a mental ‘to do’ list follows me around like a dark cloud extending along an endlessly receding horizon of unfinished business.

Much of that clutter is self-created, consisting of creative projects that have stopped by for tea and camped out in my living room, sometimes for years: half-made objects, found objects which had inspired ideas for things to make, sketches of those ideas, additional materials for those ideas. A lot of it is paper: course outlines, workshop notes, half-written articles or poems. Trunks of wool for felting. This is all stuff that is waiting for the time and my inclination to get round to. This is all basically work in progress, still alive, gestating.

Then there are the things that are hanging around because I simply don’t know what to do with them. They are perfectly useful, but not to me. Things like the two pine doors that were part of a house improvement project abandoned when my ex-husband moved out; an old radiator I’d removed years ago from my clinic when the pipe that fed it started leaking; an exercise ball that is too small for me; clothes that seemed like a good idea at the time; clothes that were a good idea at the time; a pair of shoes I once fell deeply in love with, but which have never fit me properly.... Stuff, stuff.

It became clear to me, at a visceral level, that I needed to make some space. I became hungry for space, both physical and psychic. If I could clear out the things that are no longer useful to me, it would create some space to work on some of those incomplete projects that still wanted to get done.

So I started setting about it. The clothes were easy – they went to the Oxfam.

Normally, when I’m ready to get rid of something that still has some useful life in it, I offer it to my son, or to friends. If not, I think of selling it. I knew none of my friends wanted this stuff (because I’d asked them), and I really could not be bothered to ship an enormous radiator to Birmingham, or to advertise an exercise ball on eBay. I just wanted to be quit of them.

On the other hand, they were perfectly usable, and it seemed criminal to add them to landfill.

At which point, enter FREECYCLE. I’d heard of Freecycle for years: “I got this fab bike on Freecycle”… “We paved the path with bricks we got on Freecycle”...

So I had a look online.

The Freecycle network (www.freeecycle.com) consists of over 4000 local groups all over the world, people who offer items they no longer need or want, for free, to other people. Their purpose is to promote reuse and recycling, reducing waste and keeping stuff out of landfill. A bonus -- three, actually -- is that you meet some great people; you can get things you need, for free; and people come and take away the things you want to be rid of.

Thus far – and I only signed up 5 days ago – I’ve acquired something really useful to me (3 lever arch files), and found a good home for a lovely old autoharp that has been gathering dust, a wooden storage unit, a set of wood carving tools, the exercise ball, a brand new curtain I've had in a drawer for years, and a garden trellis. I’ve dug up several bags of self-sown seedlings from my garden for a young couple who are trying to start a garden that will survive the attentions of their 18-month-old son. And best of all, three boxes of cassettes of childrens’ songs by the brilliant American singer-songwriter Courtney Campbell are no longer mouldering in my shed, but are now on their way to schools in Ghana.

This is all very satisfying. It has something of the satisfaction of giving the perfect Christmas present (evidenced by the obvious joy on the face of the recipient) + it costs nothing + it buys me space!!

Tonight I had a look at the Rogue River Commentary for Hexagram 41. Really, you have to laugh. Brad’s translation of the Great Image could almost be an ad for Freecycle:
Outstanding opportunity
Nothing is wrong
But it calls for persistence
Worthwhile to have somewhere to go
How is this applied?
A pair of simple rice baskets may be used for the offering


And the first line of his commentary reads:
To give a thing up is not always a loss if it goes to where it is needed and it comes from where it is not.

Amen to that.

I’m still hopeful that someone will want those two pine doors and the radiator in my shed…it’s a fetching shade of hammerite blue…

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