The weekend retreat

Don’t worry about writing a book or getting famous or making money. Just lead an interesting life. –Michael Morpurgo

This weekend I dragged my nature-hating roommates camping.

And I don’t just mean to the local park, or even to the nearest national park camp ground–I drove us five hours away to the highest point in West Virginia’s mountains and as far away from civilization as we could get.

And while my roommates may only begrudgingly agree, it was awesome.

The primary reason that the four of us decided to go was because at the end of July we will no longer be rooming together.  One of us will be leaving for graduate school in Chicago, one has graduated and will be moving away from the school, and my other roommate and I will be getting a smaller apartment together for the fall.  So to celebrate our three years of friendship we wanted to do one last big roommate adventure together.

But why did we decide to go five hours away?  Well, we live right near Washington D.C. and Baltimore–two huge cities and behemoths of light pollution.  All that light pollution means the night sky is completely drowned out to the point where seeing a couple dozen stars in the sky is impressive.  So, since we’re all astronomy fans, we decided to go all or nothing on this trip and go to the closest camp ground with zero light pollution on the weekend of a new moon.

And as the events of our trip unfolded I came to realize that this was one of the greatest trips we could take to spend time with each other and to live fuller lives–for a couple of reasons:

1) It forced us to spend time with each other–not our cell phones.
Despite one of our party member’s parents getting bizarrely angry about the idea, we went to a location with zero cell phone service.  There was a park ranger on site at all times with a phone in case of emergencies but other than that it was no calls, no texts, no facebook, no internet.  And what did that mean?  Well, in the middle of the forest it meant you had mainly each other for your entertainment.  We talked, played games, hiked, set up the campsite, and prepared food–all without the constant little white-blue glow of a cellphone that seems to permeate everything back home. There was no checking of Saturday-night emails that somehow couldn’t wait until Monday, no filling silences with texting, just time to spend with each other.

And it also meant we were able to appreciate our surroundings more.  We were on one of the most beautiful mountain ranges I had ever seen and there were scenic overlooks every other mile where you could see huge swathes of rolling mountains and trees that seemed to go on forever.  At night you could look up and see millions upon millions of stars lighting up the forest, mountains, and sky. During the day the only sound you could hear was the wildlife hidden in the woods.

It was so peaceful.

2) It took us out of our comfort zones.
Sleeping on hard, rocky ground with only a sleeping bag beneath you, pitching a tent in the middle of a moonless night, and sitting around a flameless fire in a thunderstrom–none of these are terribly high on my todo list, but I did all of them on our camping adventure. Now I’m not going to say these things are good because they build character or any of that nonsense, but I will say that it sure gave me an appreciation for what I have. I can’t even think of a night my bed felt as good as it did the day we got home, or of a time when I was as glad to have a reliable way to heat water. Beyond just making me thankful for what I do have, it also allowed me to see the things I don’t really need. When you pack a car with four people, food, tents, and sleeping bags it doesn’t give you much room for personal stuff. You pack what you absolutely need–and then you take half of that. I definitely felt anxious about only bringing half of my makeup routine, a single change of clothes, and leaving behind my precious laptop, but I survived. I survived and I had fun. Oftentimes when downsizing I’ll see an item and think “I can’t get rid of that, I need it!” But having to go without it for even a short while reveals what little effect it has on my life after all.

3) It made life more interesting.
What is life if not a series of memorable events and important relationships strung together with daily activites? While I won’t say sleeping on rocks is fun I will say you’ll definitely remember it. Trips like camping give you a taste of a different life beyond the daily grind. They force you to be more creative–be that turning pancakes into actual cakes to get them to cook or coming up with unique ways to set up tents in the pitch black. But through all that, they give us stories to tell and experiences to bond over, they show us sights we may never see again in our lives and ones that we can’t wait to see again, and they make life interesting.

And what more could you ask for from a weekend trip?

Well there is one more story we got…

The Camp Dog

The most adorable sweetheart of a dog I’ve ever met, now waiting for a loving family 😀

Bonus) WE FOUND A DOG.
She was the sweetest thing when she wandered up to our camp site and we assumed she was one of the other group’s, but when we went to talk to the ranger he said that she was a stray that showed up the previous night. From what he had seen she looked like she was a hunting dog that had been abandoned, probably when they realized she couldn’t hunt well (she was only maybe a year old–and had the cutest puppy paws :D). At first the ranger was going to take care of her, but his boss said he couldn’t and he had to let her loose. When he told us that if no one took her she would end up being cayote-food we gave away whatever we could and made room for her in the car. We got back late that night so the next morning when the humane society opened we took her over. When we dropped her off the lady assured us they were a no-kill shelter but that since she was young and pretty she would be adopted to a good family in a heartbeat anyway. So that was probably my favorite part of the trip.  Disclaimer: I do not guarantee you will find an abandoned dog every time you go camping. 😛

So go out and live wonderfully interesting and unpredictable lives!

Stop. Unwind.

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Defining myself without stuff

“I myself am made entirely of flaws, stitched together with good intentions.”
― Augusten Burroughs

“Who am I?”

“What makes me, me?”

When I first started my minimalist journey I thought I would end up with a nice clean apartment and a bit more savings in my bank account each month. What I ended up with was a challenge to figure out who I am.

I haven’t been on this journey long–a few months at the most–but already my thinning out of possessions has forced me to look at myself in a different way.  I’ve sifted through a large number of my possessions and decided for each one “is this a burden to me, or does it add to my happiness?”  But in order to make a decision like that we have to ask ourselves what makes us happy?

And that’s a very hard question.

It’s hard because it forces us to know ourselves, and I for one have a long way to go on that front.  I have a general idea of what I would like to do for a career, what foods I like, what I typically do on weekends.  But I can’t really define what makes me happy.  Am I supposed to be able to?  Can anyone?  I don’t know.  But it feels like a worthwhile question to ask.

I know it’s at least a little worthwhile, because in trying to find an answer, we force ourselves to separate who we are from what we think we should be and what others want us to be.

When I went through my overflowing closet a little over a month ago, I found that the stuff I was getting rid of fit into one of two categories.  The first one was clothes that had phrases or images on them.  These tried to capture a little bit of who I was.  TV shows I watched, movies I liked, hobbies I had–instead of just letting those things show through in my personality, I had stuff to show it.  Because this is what I should be.  This is what others should see about me.  It’s not enough to just enjoy the hobbies I have, I have to find a way to show other people that I’m an interesting person.  And how ridiculous is that?

The other category was clothes that I never wore specifically because I was not comfortable in them.  Not that they were the wrong size, just that wearing them made me feel like I wasn’t being… me.  All these clothes were in style whenever I bought them, so I figured I should to wear them too.  When I went through my shoes I found all these impossible high-heels that I could never wear while doing anything I enjoyed doing.  I can’t go hiking in 3-inch heels, I can’t wear them sitting at my laptop doing the research I love.  But they look like the kind of things I should want to wear.

In all of my sorting of stuff I could look at almost every item and identify that it was either something I liked using, or that I thought I should like using it.  I should learn sewing, calligraphy, origami, sculpting, pastry-making, and tea-brewing–but when I get home after a tiring day, all I really want to do is draw and read.

And you know what?

That’s fine.

Sure, it’s great to have ambitions to take up new hobbies and learn new skills, but if you try something and it doesn’t make you happy?  Then stop.  It’s not worth it.  Do something that makes you happy instead.  After all, what’s the point of those activities if not to make you happy?

For me, I think this is one of the biggest challenges to my minimalist goals.  I see things I bought in the past, things I thought I should be using or doing, and I think: “If I get rid of this, I will never be able to be the person I’m supposed to be.”

But who cares!

Instead of thinking about my ideal me in terms of what skills I have, what I know, or how I look, why isn’t my ideal me just happy?  After all, isn’t that what’s most important?  And if others don’t think you’re living up to what they think you should be, then they’re not worth your time!

Minimalism is about decluttering your space, your time, your relationships and your expectations so you can do want makes you happy!  So excuse me while I go cuddle up with a good book I’ve been wanting to read all week.  Because that’s what makes me happy. 🙂

Stop. Unwind.

Thirty before 30: Ocean Sunrise and A Message in a Bottle

As part of my approach to living a more purposeful life, I’ve identified a list of things that I want to make sure I get the chance to experience.  To do this, I’ve created a list of my Thirty before 30, thirty things I want to do before my 30th birthday.  I’m happy to report that I completed two of them last week 🙂

Last week I was lucky enough to be able to take a short summer vacation before my internship starts.

My time off normally ends with one of two outcomes: I either spend the whole time doing nothing and lying around until I come home feeling like I wasted every day, or I buckle up and make sure I do things while I’m free from work obligations.  This vacation had a little of both.

Sunset over the river at the vacation house.

Sunset over the river at the vacation house.

The first two days consisted of us hanging around the vacation home, watching movies and walking around the small neighborhood.  While I know that for some people this sounds like a great vacation, I get bored and restless quickly if I feel like I’m not doing anything, so movie marathons tend to make me miserable.  I can’t be too upset though, because one of our party members was awfully sick those few days and we didn’t want to leave her alone.

After being restless for several days, I realized that we were well within driving distance to accomplish one of the items on my list.  The vacation home was on an inlet very near the ocean so I decided I really wanted to try and see the sun rise over the ocean.  Sounds simple, right?  Oh no.  Since it’s summer where I live that means the sun rises pretty early– 5:45am to be exact, for the day I wanted to see it.  That’s not *so* bad though, especially for something so special to me, but there was another problem.  Though the ocean wasn’t physically very far from us, for the vast majority of the coast there was a buffer of a mile or two of protected marshlands that we couldn’t cross.  The closest place I could go with a public physical beach was two hours away.  So, allowing for time to get up and get ready to leave, as well as variations in transit time, I dragged myself out of bed at 3:00am.

Now the vacation home we stayed in was in something of a dead zone.  Virtually the entire time I was there I didn’t have cell phone service and the only reason we had internet was because they had a hot spot from the only cell phone company that did have service there.  I could walk through the entirety of any of the nearest towns in less than an hour, and even the closest town was a fair drive away.  All of these factors together meant that when we left at 3:30am it was pitch black.

No street lights, no porch lights.  Business lights were off, homes were dark.  Just the stars and us.

It’s a weird feeling, driving for two hours in the middle of no where in total night.  But at the same time, it was really peaceful too.  I could see the stars clear as day out of ever window, the nocturnal animals were still out and about and watched us cautiously when we drove by, and few if any cars were on the road save for the big trucks taking advantage of the isolation to make their shipments.

As we drove the sky slowly lightened on the horizon, and every time I noticed it significantly brighter I worried I would miss the sunrise.  When we were less than a half hour away from the beach we noticed the horizon looked somewhat odd.  My heart sank as I realized it was clouds on the horizon, and realized that the one thing I hadn’t checked when I had been planning this trip was the cloud forecast.  Still we drove on, hoping that even if the clouds didn’t dissipate, that the sunrise would be bright enough to shine through them.

Finally we got to Ocean City–the huge tourist beach location that essentially everyone remotely near where I live goes to when they go to the beach.  The summer days are always packed, from the boardwalk to the beach with rowdy high schoolers, college kids, and families.

But we pulled up around 5:15am and it was empty.

We pulled into a parking lot for the beach (it was so early they hadn’t even started charging for parking yet) and towed our blankets and chairs to the ocean.  The sky was a slowly brightening dark blue and the ocean winds were chilling.  As I stared at the water I realized that whatever clouds we had seen before were slowly disappearing and soon the horizon was completely clear.

For the next half hour we sat on the beach, watching the slow symphony of colors growing on the horizon, with the waves crashing in a gently lulling accompaniment.  As sunrise approached the colors changed with greater speed, from dark blue to light blue, from light blue to pink, slowly changing the color of the ocean as well and highlighting the few stray clouds in odd combinations of light and shadow.  Finally, in the last few minutes, the horizon became a brilliant ruby that slowly turned to an orange as the blazing red-orange orb of light peaked out over the horizon.  The color was amazing and it seemed that in a matter of minutes it was completely over the horizon.  We stayed for a bit longer, watching the sun’s distorted reflection begin to appear in the ocean’s waves and the sky’s colors settle on early morning yellows, then we headed back to the car to drop our things off and grab some breakfast.

Less than an hour later we were back on the boardwalk, getting in an early morning walk while everything was still closed.

And it was very strange.

In the past whenever I had visited Ocean City or a similar city during prime summer days, I had seen them in the context of thousands of tourists swarming the place to buy cheap merchandise and fried food from underpaid foreign students.  In the early morning hours though, there was no one.  All the shops were shut up so there was no blaring pop music, no children screaming, no bicyclists whizzing by, everything was peaceful.  And while at times I can enjoy getting lost in the masses, this was far better.  After we walked the length of the boardwalk in this peace we spent a bit of time geocaching, and we found several as people slowly began to populate the area.

Once the crowds were out, we walked the boardwalk again just to notice how very different it seemed compared to several hours before when it had been our deserted ghost town.  How incredibly hectic and hurried it felt now.  Early in the afternoon we finally headed home.

My message in a bottle :)

My message in a bottle 🙂

That afternoon I realized I could accomplish another item on my list while we were still so close to the ocean: sending a message in a bottle.  I took a fair amount of time deciding what to write.  I wanted it to be something personal to me, but still something that would brighten the day of whoever finds it.  Should I write about myself?  My life?  Or something else?  I finally decided on a poem from something I had read once that resonated deeply with me, and that still makes me smile years later.  I jotted it on a piece of sketchbook paper and rolled it up, hoping that whoever finds it–if anyone ever does–feels the same way about the message as I do.

Finally, around 8:00pm I went out to the backyard to see if I could see the sunset.  I thought it would be an appropriate end to a day where I had woken up to see a sunrise over the ocean, to be able to see a sunset over a bay.  The bugs were eating me alive, but I couldn’t help smiling as I saw the same wonderful procession of colors I had seen that morning played in reverse.

The next day on the way home, I tossed my bottle into one of the large rivers that made its way to the ocean, hoping someone would find my message and have a brighter day because of it.

One of the main things I note when I think over the events in my mind, is how little of it focus on the actual event itself.  Most of what I remember about the sunrise was the journey I took to see it, and the rewards I got after.  The feelings of peace and excitement when I saw the world in a light different from any view I had before.  It seems to me that that’s one of the best things about making a list of new experiences you want to have.  Each new experience gives you a new viewpoint, and it might just be one you absolutely love.  At least for me, experiencing the beach in the peaceful early hours has become something I hope I can have every time I go to the beach now.  So, while getting to check something off my list is great, having a new experience–a new viewpoint–is far more wonderful.

I guess it really is about the journey not the destination. 🙂

Stop. Unwind.

On not wasting time

Taken on April 5th, 2014 while on a search for little things to find beauty in.

Taken on April 5th, 2014 while on a search for little things to find beauty in 🙂

Have you ever had one of those days where you lay down in bed at the end of it and think “what did I do today?”

Now I don’t mean days where you spent the day with friends but didn’t really *do* anything.  Those days you’re creating bonds, which is an incredibly worthwhile activity.  And I don’t mean the days where you purposely spend time meditating on ideas.  Those days you’re focusing on your own internal health and mind–another incredibly worthwhile activity.  I mean the days where you sure felt like you were doing something all day, but at the end you realized that you hadn’t really accomplished anything. Those are the days where all the activities you were engaging in were just mindless time-wasting activities.

Maybe I’m exaggerating a little.  Maybe it wasn’t a whole day spent on time-wasting activity, but really, why should anyone be throwing away any amount of time?

Minimalism is about living a more purposeful life- at least that’s my interpretation of it. Decluttering our homes and removing excess stuff will only take us so far in our pursuit of that life. The end goal of all that decluttering, at least for me, is to help us choose only the activities that we deem important to us.

I think I’m in a similar boat to a lot of people when I say that I have a lot of purposeless hobbies.  I shouldn’t really call them hobbies since I associate hobbies with something worth-while. These are activities I engage in when I’m bored or have free time, and that really serve no purpose other than to kill time. To throw precious time away.  A few of the more general ones that I know a large number of people fall prey to are watching TV, playing with phone apps, and surfing the internet. All of these in moderation are good–I for one love watching the new Cosmos every week, and I like surfing the web to learn new things, but when free time becomes a marathon of Duck Dynasty while playing Words with Friends or watching comedy Youtube videos and reading gossip websites all day, then at the end of the day, I would call that wasteful.

In my wanderings around minimalism-focused blogs, a lot of times the first post I stumble upon in a  blog has to do with removing excess stuff.  That’s okay, it’s sort of a way to measure how much success someone’s having separating oneself from their stuff, but it’s not really the end goal.  I think a topic that needs more attention is *why* that’s important.  In my view, it’s because that excess stuff lends itself to wasting precious time.  If I have a TV it becomes so easy to just plop down at the end of a work day and waste the evening watching whatever’s on.  If I have a ton of clothes in my closet it makes it easy to justify wasting time going shopping to add to my collection.

The best way to view getting rid of “stuff” in my mind, is to think about all the time you’re freeing up by getting rid of it.  When I think about it like that, the list of things to get rid of becomes prioritized differently.  Instead of getting rid of tangible stuff I do things like delete game-centered apps off my phone and block websites like Facebook.

When I view things like that, magically I have more time to engage in the things that matter to me.  I can read more, write more, draw more–because I’ve gotten rid of the stuff that distracts me from these things I feel passionate about.  So maybe instead of talking so much about getting rid of an item a day, only owning X number of items, or not buying new things for such and such a time, we focus more on what precious things we’re able to accomplish because of it.  In my mind, that’s what it means to focus on living a more purposeful life and a life we won’t regret later.

Stop. Unwind.

Thirty before 30

a.k.a. a less morbid bucket list.

Yesterday evening, to finish off the weekend on a more relaxed note, I watched Breakfast at Tiffany’s with my boyfriend.  I had never seen it before and I was struck by the main character’s free-spirited nature (I guess that goes hand-in-hand with her last name– Golightly).  In particular, I was struck by the scene where she and the male lead decide on a whim to spend the entire day doing things they’d never done before.  Today (as I’m currently procrastinating on a presentation for tomorrow 😛 ) I wondered if I were to make a list of things to do that I had never done before, what would be on it?  After some quick googling I found that this is a rather popular topic, and so I’ve decided to come up with a list of thirty things I’ve never done before and want to do before I turn 30.

bucket-listI did purposefully choose to not make a bucket list because I don’t agree with a few primary ideas behind them.  One of my biggest problems with bucket lists is that there are no time constraints on them.  I love the idea of coming up with a list of things you dream of doing and working towards them–to me, that’s the definition of living purposefully.  My worry with bucket lists is that no one knows when they’re going to fall ill or how much busier you’ll be once you have kids to take care of–and especially few people know when they’re going to die.  So to me, a bucket list is really a “maybe eventually” list.  It seems to me, the only way to have any real confidence you’ll get the chance to experience your dreams is to set yourself some real time constraints.

Beyond that, oftentimes on bucket lists and New Year’s resolution lists I see very vague items.  Be happier.  Travel more.  Get in shape.  My problem with each of these is how do you measure if you’ve succeeded?  Maybe these types of goals work for some people, but for the most part I think people prefer finite goals they can tell if they’re achieving.  Call Mom at least once a week.  Exercise three times a week.  Visit Paris within the next three years.  These are goals you can actually tell if you’ve achieved/are achieving.  So with that said, here’s my list of thirty before 30!

  1. Ride in a hot air balloon.
  2. Write a novel (minimum 50,000 words) and send it to a publisher.
  3. Run a half-marathon.
  4. Go on an overnight backpacking hike.
  5. Go vegan.
  6. Visit France.
  7. Camp at a dark sky location for a meteor shower.
  8. Stay at a haunted house/go ghost hunting.
  9. Go on a road trip.
  10. See a Cirque du Soleil performance.
  11. Complete Ludum Dare.
  12. Do a handstand.
  13. Learn to play piano.
  14. Visit Japan.
  15. Go to Carnival in Venice.
  16. Pay off my student loans.
  17. Go urban exploring.
  18. Go to a religious service of another faith.
  19. Do a 365 day photo project.thirtythirty
  20. Ride in a horse drawn carriage.
  21. Go to Loi Krathong in Thailand.
  22. Go a month without spending money.
  23. Be a part of a flash mob.
  24. Send a message in a bottle.
  25. Watch a sunrise over the ocean.
  26. Learn Italian.
  27. Fill a sketchbook.
  28. Grow a garden–and actually eat things from it.
  29. Write a love note to my significant other every day for a year.  Bind them and give them to him when it’s finished.
  30. See the Northern Lights.

I have roughly eight years to accomplish this list, and I think some of the bigger travel trips might have to be put off until after graduate school, but if I complete about two a year I should have them all done by 30.  Maybe then I can make a forty by 40 list!  If any readers decide to make their own list, please let me know!  I would love to read yours too!

Live thoughtfully, purposefully, and fully!

Stop.  Unwind.

Let the bad things go

Not that balloons are bad, I personally really like balloons. It's just that they make a nice metaphor.

Not that balloons are bad.  I personally really like balloons. It’s just that they make a nice metaphor.

Today I had a meeting with my research advisor to give him my final report before submitting to a research contest tonight. I had been working on my submission for this conference for about two months, though it also coincided well with the research I was doing already. He asked if we could have a second meeting so we could go in depth over my paper and so that he could have a little time before the meeting to go over exactly what I needed to submit.

I arrive for my second meeting and he essentially tells me that he’s very sorry, but after going over what the contest was looking for, he didn’t think my work would be a good fit since I wasn’t able to complete the last major part.

While I do agree with his assessment, it didn’t lessen the sting of two months of work essentially going down the drain.

So I walked home in the heavy rain that had been falling all day and had two choices.  I could remain hung up on what I saw as a failure and think wistfully about what could’ve been. I could beat myself up for not working on the contest more– for spending too much time on other classwork or with friends– and sadly eat ice cream while staring blankly at some rerun of Pawn Stars on television.  Or I could let the bad things go.

What good would dwelling on it do me?  Sure, I should learn from my mistakes–maybe adjust my time management skills and learn to prioritize different parts of a large project–but after that point, why bother thinking more on it?  Why break myself down by mentally replaying again and again how I had failed?

There’s no point!

Everyone has failures, everyone has moments when they can’t keep up, so there’s no need to make yourself feel terrible about it!  Instead, turn that energy into something positive!  Double your efforts on a project you’re working on, some cleaning you need to get done, or a blog post you want to write ( 😛 ).  That way, instead of getting sucked into those negative emotions, you can keep your positive outlook–and I truly believe that is the most important component needed to live a thoughtful, happy life.

Now I’m sitting by the window, watching the beautiful downpour outside and the river beside my apartment complex swell to amazing sizes, and though I’ve had my share of  disappointments and I know many challenges are coming my way, I refuse to dwell on them.  There are simply too many little things in life to find and appreciate for me to waste any time moping about what happened, or worrying about what may happen next.

Stop. Unwind.

“Just… hold on to it?”

Stop me if you’ve heard this one: a minimalist is trying to sort through all her excess stuff and ends up with a bunch of gifts that she knows she won’t use.  She tells a friend about a couple of things she’s planning on giving away and he looks at her incredulously.

“You can’t get rid of that!”

“Why?  I don’t use it, what should I do with it?”

“Just… hold on to it?”

Today I want to talk about gifts.

Dinosaur Pinata

WHY DO I NEED THIS?

This is something that I’ve been having a bit of trouble with myself so I figured I would make a post about my struggles.  As I’ve been downsizing, I’ve found a surprisingly large number of my possessions are gifts.  Necklaces for Christmas, earrings for birthdays, books I can get on my Kindle, and the infamous “knickknack” category several of my friends seem to favor (what do I need with a dinosaur pinata?!).

This leads to one of my big problems with going minimal: what do I do with them?  I’m trying to declutter and don’t have any use for them, but I can never guess for sure who will remember what they gave me.  There are some friends and family that I know won’t miss the necklace they gave me four years ago, but some people will remember–and ask if they notice it’s missing.

So here’s my dilemma: do I tell people I’m downsizing and ask if they want their gifts back, or just give them away and hope they don’t notice?  The main issues are for the big items I’ve received in the past–an expensive necklace that bothers my neck, or an old sentimental rotary phone that I can’t use…  On one hand, it would be nice if I could just get all the big (as in expensive or memorable) gifts together and tell each person “hey, I’m decluttering, do you want your gift back or should I give it away?” But then that opens up a new can of worms.  Then they’ll ask questions about why I’m getting rid of my stuff and it will eventually bring up my attempt at a minimalist lifestyle.  I know from reading a fair number of minimalist blogs that a lot of people can somehow get offended by this–because it clashes with how they choose to live their life, and they just can’t handle that for some unbeknownst reason.  But *then* there will be the ones who will get offended–not by me giving away stuff and the life I choose to live, but by me not “appreciating” their gift.  Why can’t I keep the purse they picked out just for me? (Because I already have three purses! And I only want one!) Isn’t the gift good enough for me? (Of course your earrings are nice, but I don’t even wear earrings!) I must simply not love them if I can’t appreciate their gift!

I know one solution to this is to “declutter” my relationships.  “If they don’t want to understand your lifestyle then they’re not worth having around!”  But I care about my friends and family too much.  Just because they don’t understand my way of thinking and get a little offended by my actions doesn’t mean I want to cut ties!  And I also think it’s far too harsh of a response considering they have an entire culture and society pressuring them to think that materialism is the way to go.  If I had given someone a gift and lived with a materialistic mindset, I’d be offended if they tossed it too!  I would much rather have patience with these people than regret living without them years down the road.

Which brings me to my main thought about all of this…

Why is it that in our society the only way to congratulate someone, or to show love to someone is to buy stuff for them?  If I love you, I would rather spend time with you than receive a gift.  Let’s play a board game, bake some dessert, or go explore someplace new!  If you *must* get me something, get me tickets to a show, an event, something I can *do* not something that will sit around on my dresser collecting dust.  I’m tired of getting material gifts that end up cluttering my home and my life, and I think the people we care about are worth more than just a credit card swipe at the mall.  So no, I won’t just “hold on to it.”  I’ll get rid of it, and I’ll still love the person who gave it to me.

Stop.  Unwind.