The Red Line

When I started down the journey to live lighter, it was a practical study: we were four people living in the space which only two had previously inhabited and we needed more space. A bigger apartment was not in the cards, so if we wanted to not drown in stuff, then we needed to declutter.

At first it was easy. (I had a lot of junk.) There was a momentum and a satisfaction that came from seeing progress, and I am nothing if not a progress addict.

What was difficult, tragically difficult for me, was not filling the space up again.

Fill ‘er up

While there was progress made in getting rid of things, I had not yet learned to stop shopping. Cute, cheap duvet covers at Ikea? Sure! Let’s get them in double for the boys’ beds (FYI, the boys didn’t use duvets yet. But I bought matching duvet covers for them, just in case.) A cute little candle holder. Drawer organizers (that didn’t really do what I need them to). Notebooks. Decorative pillows. Mugs. More notebooks. More mugs.

Back in the early days of the blog, I wrote about how I was inspired by the biblical citation that says, “Where your treasure is your heart will be, too.” It was one of many little kicks in the rear that I needed to dedicate a year to my overabundance of stuff problem, starting with my closet.

One of the outgrowths of that kick in the rear has been my decision to Buy No Clothes in 2021, which has had its own rather unexpected impact on my clutter problems: I have bought less other stuff, too.

Comfort inside a limit

I am a person who needs a red line. I need a firm, non-squishy limit that I cannot cross. Rules provide me a feeling of safety and make me feel comfortable. I only learned this truth about myself in the last few years, but now that I have, I feel like I have unlocked a secret to my own personal motivation.

Because I am actively avoiding going to shops where I might see clothes I could possibly fall in love with and want to own, I find that I am avoiding shops altogether. Which means that I am avoiding temptation.

So much of it goes back to me, getting a little itch for something new and not being able to rest until that itch gets scratched. Regardless of if the thing I scratch it with is something I even suspected the existence of before I purchased it.

A stitch in time…

To stop shopping solves so many of my problems. It stops stuff from entering the home. It saves money. It forces me to examine the itch rather than just just blindly scratching it. And most importantly: It saves time!

Time is the treasure of which I am most covetous. It is the one gift that cannot be given, traded, borrowed.

My decision to not shop over the last two months has had a ripple effect: I actually feel like I have more time, because I know for a fact that when I have to run an errand, I will not be wasting time stopping into ten different shops “just to see what they have.”

An errand to the pharmacy to buy magnesium means that I will stop at the pharmacy to buy magnesium and not at the little shop next door, too, because they have a cute belt in the window.

Going to buy a baguette now means going to the bakery, not to the bakery and the shoe store across the street with the leopard stilettos which suddenly echo the beat of my heart.

The hardest part was to decide and to stick to the decision through the first month. It was a myriad of little decisions at first, but it has gotten easier with time. The more I practice the little decisions, the more determined I get to not mess things up.

I find that as I double down on resolution for my heart to be found in a meaningful treasure, I am discovering an entirely new treasure, an unexpected treasure that no money could have bought for me: more time.

Published by Lily Fields

I am passionate about contentment. This is a challenge, because I am equally passionate about progress. I get up at 4:00AM to chip away at a solution to this monolithic problem: how to make progress on my contentment. Born and raised in the USA, I married a French philosophy teacher in 1999. We have lived in France since 2007. We stayed young and carefree until life threw us two curveballs in the form of little humans one after another in 2015 and 2017 respectively. Now I am a slightly older, slightly more exhausted version of myself, but with mystery stains on my walls and a never-ending pile of laundry.

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