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.