This year I think I’ll just skip over Christmas and move directly to the New Year holiday. The reason? I honestly need a new year. Or rather, I need a reason to put my new year’s resolutions into effect.  So beginning now, I plan to simplify my existence. Downsize. Discard. Clarify, cleanse and refine my environment.

The other day I decided to clean out my garage. This is a task I take on about twice a year and put off doing for as long as possible.  My  car is never garaged there, rather it is the headquarters for tools, a golf cart, bicycle and moped, holiday light sculptures (from lighted boat parades past), fishing tackle, camping gear, paint (both house and artist),  filing cabinets, a wine cork collection, a huge assortment of hardware (Home Depot: don’t hate) and bits and pieces of bric-a-brac and found objects that I might use to “make art” one day.

One small slice of chaos

To tell the truth, I haven’t actually cleaned the garage, but I have decided to do so and I will. Soon.  And not only the garage, but also my closets, drawers, book cases, laundry room, kitchen pantry and cabinets, et cetera will be purged of all nonessential items. Which raises the question: what is essential?

In accordance with prevailing trends in charitable giving, essential equals food, clothing and shelter. Makes sense. But for those of us who are blessed with an adequate or even surfeit supply of these essentials another question can be asked. How much is enough, or too much?

In the movie, “The Jerk”, Steve Martin declares, “I don’t need any of this. I don’t need anything except just this ashtray. And this paddle game, the ashtray and the paddle game and that’s all I need. And this remote control. And these matches. The ashtray, and these matches, and the remote control and the paddle ball. And this lamp. And that’s all I need too. I don’t need one other thing, not one –– I need this. The paddle game, and the chair, and the remote control, and the matches, for sure. And this. And that’s all I need. The ashtray, the remote control, the paddle game, this magazine and the chair…”

All I need...

In Steven Kings’s 1991 horror novel, Needful Things, anyone who enters a curio store in the fictional town of Castle Rock finds the object of her lifelong dreams and desires. According to King, the curio shop was symbolic of the 1980’s when, “everything had come with a price tag… The final items up on the block had been honor, integrity, self-respect, and innocence.”

Political cartoon from 1981

Thankfully, the 1980’s are bygone days. We are now entering the second decade of the 21st century and what matters now is hopefully much different from those times.

And so, I will begin to downsize by clearing my home of non-essential items. I’m not ready (yet) for that tiny house or to go car-less, but one day I hope to achieve those goals. In the meantime, I’ll do what I can to reverse a lifetime of inherited tendencies to accumulate “things.”

I admit it has taken me six decades to realize that less really is more and that simple, although difficult to achieve, is determining what is important and discarding the rest. What matters now?

  • My family is my number one asset
  • My job provides what I need to survive with some left over to help others.
  • My talents are blessings from God, to be shared with others
  • My friends are my joy
  • My boat remains a necessity. Smile.

By the way, I’ve changed my mind about skipping Christmas. I wouldn’t want to miss the magical times spent with my family during this special season. On the eve of 2010, what matters to you? Please share your comments. Happy New Year!