Return All the Things
If ever I needed proof of my type-A personality, my suffocating need for achievement and perfection, or my tendency to over-think, over-analyze, and over-everything, I could point to my 25th birthday present. My mom, aware of what I really needed, bought me Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort and Joy by Sarah Ban Breathnach. But I won’t, because it is far more telling that I never opened the book until this summer, 14 years after the fact.
Of course, I opened it back then on my birthday. I read the inscription and smiled, as good daughters do. I even carried it with me on the flight home (I was visiting my parents in Lake Tahoe) and when the pretty Indian woman in her 30s leaned over to ask me what I thought of the book, I looked down at the book in my lap and said, “I haven’t read it, but I’m sure it’s good.” She smiled back with a look that said she knew me.
I found the book in my childhood room, lost among all the other books. It was shortly after Helena’s parents died, and I grabbed it because it seemed much more relevant 14 years later. I had changed.
Then I opened the book and noticed it was a devotional of sorts, that there is a short essay for each day of the year and that the first date is, naturally, January 1. The introduction said to not worry about dates, and that “if this book finds you in April, don’t think that you can’t use it.”
I closed the book again–this time bringing it home for safekeeping–and made a mental note to start reading in January. I hadn’t changed that much.
On January 3rd, I read the following.
There are six principles that will act as guides as we make our inner journey over the next year. These are the six threads of abundant living which, when woven together, produce a tapestry of contentment that wraps us in inner peace, well-being, happiness, and a sense of security. First, there is gratitude. When we do a mental and spiritual inventory of all that we have, we realize that we are very rich indeed. Gratitude gives way to simplicity–the desire to clear out, pare down, and realize the essentials of what we need to live truly well. Simplicity brings with it order, both internally and externally. A sense of order in our life brings us harmony. Harmony provides us with the inner peace we need to appreciate the beauty that surrounds us each day, and beauty opens us to joy. But just as with any beautiful needlepoint tapestry, it is difficult to see where one stitch ends and another begins. So it is with Simple Abundance.
I wrote the word Excellent in the margin.
It was the very thing I needed to hear, that it’s okay many of the projects I do are practical, boring, not even remotely pinnable. There is an order to things, and before I can get to zshushing I have to work on the foundation. Otherwise, it’s just lipstick on a pig.
We hosted a dinner for out of town relatives a few days before Christmas. Our advent candles had burned down low, so I made a quick visit to Michael’s for more. I found the pretty gold candles on sale for a ridiculously low price and, thinking they would look lovely on the table, bought two boxes of four. I was right. They were lovely. That is, until they burned for more than a few seconds, and their marked down, too-good-to-be-true price made sense. (Not cents.)
They melted. They melted everywhere, and fast enough that you would think someone held a blow torch to the wick. They melted down the candle, down the candlestick, and pooled on the antique table we are borrowing from my mom. The table is flimsy and of little value, but that didn’t make scraping wax off the finish any less annoying. Stupid, cheap, golden candles.
After Christmas, I was left with an annoying decision. I knew I would never again use the candles, but I didn’t want to throw them out, either. It seemed wasteful, even though I didn’t spend that much. And it was the small amount of money I spent that presented the problem: large enough to keep me from tossing them out, small enough to make me put off returning them. Before this summer, before October, and before the estate sale, I might have kept them just in case. Or, I might have stored them so I could sell them at a future garage sale.
Storing worthless candles I have no intention of using so I can salve my ego or make 50¢ at a mythical garage sale is silly. Taking the time to tuck them away in pretty organizing bins is putting lipstick on a pig.
I returned them. I waited until I had errands that would put me near a Michael’s and walked out ten minutes later with, I don’t know, maybe $5? It seems silly, but these little purchases here and there add up. I keep my returns under the entry table in my kitchen, always in plain view, so it’s the last thing I see when I leave the house. I don’t store them in baskets or make them look pretty. I’ll forget them if I do. Instead, I let them plague me like an unwanted suitor until I can’t take it anymore. I returned a box of candles at Michael’s, two duplicate toys at Target, a purse and a necklace at Macy’s. Suddenly, I have money to work on projects around the house.
Return all the things. I did.
Now it’s your turn! Feel free to share how you have lived according to the William Morris quote, “Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.” Made a plan? Cleaned a drawer? Bought a sofa? Let’s hear it with a link or in the comments.
A few guidelines:
- Please link to a specific post, not a general blog address.
- No links to giveaways, please.
- A link back to this site is always appreciated. There are buttons to add to your post or sidebar, too, thanks to the lovely Alex of Type A Calligraphy. Just copy the code and insert into your blog post or sidebar when in html mode.
- Let’s use this weekly link up as an opportunity to gather inspiration and motivation. Click links. Discover new people. Say hi and good job. I know I will.
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