Traveling Light

2 09 2013

travelinglightigudf3By sheer coincidence, my wife and I are both currently reading books with the same title, Traveling Light (hers written by Max Lucado and mine by Eugene Peterson).  The book title is a fitting metaphor for this season in our lives.

This past weekend, I shed well over a thousand books from a library of several thousand.  Those who know me well can tell you I am a voracious reader, collecting books like stray cats.  In addition, I’m a bit of a tightwad when it comes to books and love to buy them on the cheap, somewhere in the neighborhood of $.10 on the dollar.  You can see why I accumulated so many.

Lately, I’ve discovered that I am, in fact, a hoarder.  “Hoarders” happens to be one of my wife’s favorite television programs.  I’ve even sat in on a few of the episodes—briefly, mind you. I got grossed out after about ten minutes.  That surely doesn’t apply to me.  I’m organized and retentive.  Anal retentive.

But, alas, it does.  Well organized and cataloged hoarding is still hoarding.  If it walks like a duck, has feathers like a duck, quacks like a duck…you get the picture.

It has been profoundly liberating to downsize my library and sell stuff dirt cheap and give the rest away.  Like shedding belly fat and man boobs, I feel a lot better and lighter.

“Traveling light” is a metaphor for a full, but less cluttered and encumbered, life.  It is embodied in these kinds of maxims: “Do few things but do them well”; “Buy fewer things but of better and more lasting quality”; and, my favorite, “Less is more.”

Questions to ask yourself:

  • Do I need this thing I’m holding on to or about to buy?  Just because you can find a use for it doesn’t mean it’s a good thing to keep or acquire. “Stuff accumulation” brings its own unique stresses.
  • Concerning books: Can I get this at the public library for free?  Similarly, can I find this classic as a free e-book on Amazon.com or as .pdf file for my Kindle, Nook or e-reader app?  There are tons of books in the public domain, classics especially, that you can put on your laptop, e-reader, or iPad.  Why clutter your shelves and stress your head as well as the joists in your house?
  • Will the benefit I derive from this acquisition be greater than the stress I incur cluttering up my spaces?  This is the million dollar question.  Peace of mind is infinitely better than having something around “just in case I may, at some future date, need it.”

I’m not a Buddhist, not by a long shot.  But I have to tell you, the wisdom embodied in a Zen, minimalist approach to life rings true and obvious.

Advice for this new season, post-Labor Day….

Travel light.

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