Slipping at Integritea: Desire To De-Clutter


Over the past many years, my family and I have seasonally divided our time between dens in three different countries: Pakistan, Canada and the United States.

Our nomadic lifestyle began two years after marriage when my wife and I packed up our newlywed nest in scenic Boulder Colorado, put our minimal belongings (primarily books) into storage at my in-law’s house in Denver, stuffed a couple of suitcases, grabbed a guitar and set out to make The World our home.     A year in Damascus, a year in Cairo and suddenly we were en route back to North America for the birth of our first daughter.  With each journey we made, souvenirs increased and eventually the basement at my in-law’s in Colorado was filling up with our trinkets of travel ~ rugs, lamps, furniture and fascinating musical instruments.

Embarking upon a proper move to Pakistan in 2009, we divided our accumulated household items in half: a portion for use at our home in Pakistan and a portion to be stored for a future home in North America.  Four years later (following multiple trips between Pakistan, Colorado and my parent’s home in Canada…as well as the birth of a second daughter) ~ with new purchases, gifts and nostalgic keepsakes  making their way with us from country to country ~ the seasonal landing pads were all filling up with more and more and more…to the point that we would forget what we had stored in each location and often had duplicate items in each place.

Anyone who has heard George Carlin’s “Stuff” routine, is a sucker for check-out-line sale items, has been baptized at the doorway of an Ikea store or signed a lease for a storage locker  at some point in their lives will recognize all too well how easy it is to collect seemingly important junk.

The more I have accumulated at various times in my life, the more I have inevitably felt burdened…weighed down…responsible for things that I knew I usually did not really need…or, in many cases, things I did not even really want.

When I do the money-math to determine costs of things I have purchased over the years ~ the nickel-and-diming, dollar store spending really adds up.  Even items of little monetary cost have become financial drains when shipped internationally by boat, plane or truck.  Factor such costs against the struggles faced by many of my friends living in rural Pakistan ~ with everything from rent and medical care to the basic acquiring of wheat or sugar ~ suddenly, my spending habits are an embarrassment and blatant contradiction to the road map of my spiritual journey, which teaches ~ “want for your brother or sister in humanity what you want for your self.”

When I do the calendar-math, I am awakened even further to other more frightening truths.   For example, at 40+ years old, even if I were to live another 40 years and push myself to read one book by-weekly, there is no way I would be able to read all the books in my personal library.  And what of my film collection?  My music collection?  The stamp, rock, coin and tea-cup collections?  Clothing?   Oh ~ the clothing!     For a man with only two feet, two hands and one body ~ how could I have acquired so much clothing spread out over three countries?  “Sipping at Simplcitea” ~ indeed!   “Slipping at integritea” would be a more fitting title for this blog if I were being totally honest with myself and all of you kind readers.

Last year on my birthday, I devised a personal ten year plan for trying to de-clutter of my life.    Almost one year in play, I have been feeling lighter and brighter by the day.

The initiative is multidimensional.   Though it came about as a means to basically create more space around me (ease my load during moves and ease my sensory over-load during day-to-day life) my ten year experiment contains restrictions I have imposed upon myself to decrease my belongings and spending habits, while simultaneously helping me to increase my environmental consciousness, humanitarian contributions and spiritual awareness.

Last January, when we took possession of our new house, we consolidated all of our belongings from the USA and Canada ~ meticulously sifting through everything to donate or sell all but the most important treasures or useful items.   Any funds raised from what we sell in an upcoming yard sale will be allotted to our ongoing work with the Al Imtiaz Academy in Pakistan.     This summer I also hope to launch a Simplictea Sale here on this website, where I will auction off many of my accumulated musical instruments and studio paraphernalia, with proceeds to Al Imtiaz as well.   At my live shows I have begun the process already with the sale of an unused nylon guitar case a few weeks ago.

The ongoing sorting has also inspired an effort to remove as much plastic as possible from our house ~ opting to utilize wood, metal, glass, clay, cloth and leather over anything plastic or nylon.  We have found that minimizing plastics in our home creates a lovely ambiance and earthy aesthetic, while also reducing the “Walmart” smell that so often lingers with many molded household items.    Wooden spatulas, clay dishes, cotton shower curtains and pine book shelves have all replaced piles of plastic  which have gone out the door for recycling.

The next phase of de-cluttering will carry on in Pakistan, as my family and I prepare to fly out later today for our overseas home ~ hoping to begin sorting our belongings there the day after we land.    There is no doubt that we wish to maintain dwellings in both Canada and Pakistan over the next decade or more ~ but our aim is to keep both abodes as simple and uncluttered as possible.

More on the 10 year plan soon from our home in Abbottabad.

Categories: Family, House, Reduce Reuse Recycle, Simple Living

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9 thoughts on “Slipping at Integritea: Desire To De-Clutter

  1. Hiba

    you have a lot of work to do, good luck with that sir ^^
    everything you said reminds me of my dad, he keeps everything and my mother’s always telling him to throw what he doesn’t need xDD the other day he found bills from the 60s and 70s, and a grocery list hhhh I hope he’ll decide to do a plan like yours someday 🙂

  2. Amin

    Salams! Wow, mashAllah, feeling so so inspired right now reading that post. I have felt myself slipping a bit lately with plastic especially, but am newly galvanized after reading your efforts. It is just brilliant to see how you all have been able to achieve this! Please please share your cotton shower curtain, that is one where I have struggled a lot (given the waterproofing issue) and also, Im so curious how you avoid two of my guiltiest uses of plastic: zip lock bags and cling film (Saran wrap). Please share some tips! I think you should make a separate section on this website as a kind of ‘forum’ with different threads on these types of more practical ‘de-clutter’ and ‘greening’ ideas. I think many many people want to jump on these bandwagons but are paralysed not by lack of will but by lack of simple, straightforward ideas. Please, if possible, can I request a post on your ten year de-clutter plan, for those of us also interested in pursuing similar course 🙂 Thank you Dawud, mashAllah for yet another uplifting/inspiring/orienting/reminding post, Allah increase you always!

  3. Dawn

    Dawud – as always, your honesty is refreshing! It is just entropy catching up with us all. I had an epiphany after an 80 year old relative died (no spouse or children) and I was tasked with clearing out his condo. As I sorted through decades of accumulated stuff (most of it meaningful to him, by the way, not junk) I could not escape the realization that someday – someday – someone would be doing the same thing for me. What would they find? What would my “stuff” say about me? It was profound. I still struggle with clutter – in a materialistic society, I think one has to make an effort not to accumulate since the culture is built around consumption – but I try. I do two de-cluttering sessions per year – one at the end of each school semester. Paper is my nemesis. As for the books, Dawud, even if you can’t read them, you may have grandchildren who will – think about that.

  4. Jan V

    Thank you for this wonderful post. Safe travels – and journeys – ahead.

  5. Maybe you can write a song about your accumulated items and your two homes?

  6. Ammar Awais

    This post is very inspiring. It makes me want to do the same: get rid of the junk, and ‘de-clutter’ the unnecessary stuff. I wish you would auction some of your items in Islamabad as well; I would love to become a part of this and contribute to fund raising.

  7. Dear Ammar, you are most welcomed to be a part of the initiative. There are a ton of things I could put up for sale from my home office/studio in Pakistan. My plan is to be back in Abbottabad during Ramadan to do some further sorting and de-cluttering. Once that is done, I will put up a list of items on my blog.

  8. Great idea! For now, I just love to sit on the sofa to strum and sing this song made famous by Eddie Vedder “Society”

  9. Salams dear Amin, thank you ~ as always ~ for your passionate support of my little harebrained ideas and adventures. It would be dishonest of me to give the impression that I have fully altered my life to include more “organic” household items. Substituting plastics (hangers, dishes etc) for wood, metals or glass is an ongoing process, often requiring create thinking. For example, I was just thinking to myself (during my 20+ hour flight back to Canada from Pakistan) about buttons. Most buttons these days are plastic. Shirt buttons, coat buttons, sweater buttons… we don’t even stop to think about all the plastics around us. So if plastic production when into hyper speed in and around WWII, what were buttons made of before then? Men used cuff-links (and many still do) but otherwise, even button making was an art form ~ with buttons made of porcelain, sea shell, brass or wood. (see Naturally I am not going to go rip all the buttons off my shirts to whittle new ones, or defeat the spirit of simplicity by going out to purchase ones made of brass or wood. One step at a time. Now that I have noted “buttons” being made of plastic, I will keep in mind alternatives when I do eventually lift my self-imposed 10 year ban on purchasing new clothes. Regarding the cotton shower curtain: They work well and though they naturally get wet, we’ve noticed no leakage outside the tub after a shower. Additionally, as shower curtains usually get soap-scummy after a while, I find the cotton ones easier to wash along with regular laundry, than old-school plastic ones which had to be either tossed in the trash after a while or scrubbed clean. Regarding a substitute to plastic cling wrap: Look no further than your own Pakistani upbringing my dear:

    Pop down to a local Asian grocery store or cash ‘n carry, to pick up stainless steel food storage containers. Great for picnics or just keeping food in the fridge to preserve freshness.

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