By Kate Procter
Anyone who knows me very well has had to listen to a lot of whining lately about something I’ve spent most of the summer and early fall doing. Whether you call it purging, decluttering, reverse nesting, or by some other name, I have been going through my house and farm office with a ruthless hand and just getting rid of stuff.
I’ve never been a big shopper, and I have moved once or twice in my adult life – but still – stuff seems to accumulate. When my kids were all still living with me and in school, it often seemed like a relentless flow of paper was continually washing into the house and accumulating like detritus after a spring thaw. It doesn’t help that I’m still wearing clothes that I wore in high school. Note to self: there’s nothing like a t-shirt with a date on it to tell the world I’m not exactly a fashionista. On the other hand, my 1993 Canadian Country Music Awards t-shirt reminds me of the time my sister and I saw Shania Twain live, back when she was brand new on the music scene.
And that’s the kind of thinking that leads me to accumulate, and keep, lots of things that have limited usefulness. When I started down this path, I envisioned just getting rid of a few things that I don’t use very much, or that I couldn’t actually repair, and just cleaning up a bit. What it turned into, though, was much more of a soul-searching exercise.
Having helped a couple of friends deal with their parents’ houses had got me thinking of this a while ago so I had dipped my toe into the decluttering pond a little. One of my friends and I would actually send each other “before” and “after” photos as a way of encouraging each other on our purging journeys. And then celebrate with a little treat – no victory was too small for us!
But this summer, the exercise took on a bigger purpose – and I got down to emptying entire rooms. It made me look at myself and where I find meaning in a whole new way. It seems easy to get so wrapped up in busyness that we can look at our surroundings and not even see them any more. Sometimes we need to take a look as if we have a new set of eyes. Once I got started doing that, it became almost an obsession.
I have had a piano in my home for almost my entire life. I came to realize that I rarely played it, it takes up a lot of space, and was mostly gathering dust and mildew inside. I had to sort out why I was even keeping it. The whole process led to a lot of internal arguing – and when I realized that I couldn’t even come up with an argument that satisfied my own self, I knew the object in question had to go.
Luckily for me, there is a new Habitat for Humanity Huron County Restore in Wingham. They know me quite well by now, and have started encouraging me to buy as well as donate. On one of my trips there, I got chatting with some of the volunteers and learned a lot more about the organization and the role it plays in Huron County.
From their website, “Habitat for Humanity Huron County is a non-profit, non-government, incorporated charitable organization dedicated to improving the lives of economically disadvantaged persons through home ownership with the belief that decent, affordable housing is a basic human need. Its mission is to eliminate poverty housing in Huron County in partnership with volunteers, donors, sponsors and the homeowners themselves,” http://www.habitat huron county.ca/index.php.
I learned that there are houses built throughout the county, and it is fascinating to learn more about this group that helps people find a safe space to nurture their families.
Habitat for Humanity International was founded in 1976 and has built and rehabilitated more than 300,000 houses and helped more than 1.5 million people escape the cycle of poverty. The organization developed its first Canadian affiliate in 1985 in Winkler, Manitoba, and Huron County’s branch started in 2004 with people in Exeter and Wingham coming together to address a substantial need in our rural community. “There is a real shortage of affordable housing for families in Huron County. Today, many low-income working families are spending more than 50 per cent of their income on rental housing that’s both substandard and unsafe. Housing and living costs are also rising much faster than family incomes,” http://www.habitathuron county.ca/index.php.
Habitat in Huron County has lots of interesting ways to get involved aside from donating and shopping at the Restore. They have a number of committees, and are looking for volunteers. No matter what your interest or skill set, there is a fulfilling role you can play within the organization. More information can be found on their website.
As for me, the summer of the Great Purge has almost concluded, leaving my home and mind much less cluttered and ready to consider those volunteer opportunities. It has led me to think even more about what I bring into my home and why I am doing that. Taking a trip to the landfill and seeing the mountains of waste there makes me ashamed and reminds my of my new mantra – “less is more”. As a society, we have been encouraged at every turn to “buy, buy, buy”. In fact, we even call ourselves “consumers” without giving the word a second thought. It is up to each of us to think a bit more deeply about that and decide if that is the best path for our long term future.◊