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Sunday, March 7, 2010

Thou Shalt Not Covet

No, I am not about to launch into a sermon or anything like that, and NO, of course I am not coveting my neighbour's spouse (ew), however the title for this entry is very fitting and here's why...  Remember a few weeks ago when I was talking about my unhealthy attachment to things?  Well, I have been working really hard at trying to get past this issue, in fact, I have been thinking about it so much that you could even say that I have been obsessing about it (not coveting, obsessing... and yes, they're different).  This obsession has led me to having fantastical thoughts.  In these thoughts, I have been trying to imagine a world where people truly aren't attached to any material thing.  Now this notion might sound completely ridiculous to most of us living in Western society, however there are cultures in this world who actually practice this type of lifestyle.  In particular, I am thinking about the various groups of Buddhist monks who live around the world, but particularly those in Asia.  About eight years ago, I took a course in University in which I studied Buddhist culture and all I remember feeling was ENVY (yes, yet another sin).  I guess what I am trying to say is that that I have been attracted to a simpler lifestyle for quite some time now.  In fact, part of me has always fantasized about running off to live in some ashram in India, however since those fantasies have come into being, I have been with my now-husband (then-boyfriend) Trent, and for those of you who know Trent... well, let's just say that wouldn't have gone over very well.  So, I guess you could say that I chose love over my fantasies of living in extreme simplicity.  And now, well, I continue to choose my family over that same level of simplicity.  I guess what I am saying is that I am trying to find ways in my current life in which I can try to practice some of the values that I continue to find myself so attracted to.

Here is an example.  Look around your house.  How many objects can you see that you are not using to their fullest potential?  Here are some ways to think about this question:
  • Have you used the object in the last day, week, month, year?
  • Maybe it is an object that you used once or twice but likely won't again (book, dvd, etc.)
  • When do you think that you might use that object again?  Could someone else be using it or enjoying it in the meantime?
  • Ask yourself the 'whys' behind the 'stuff' in your house.  Why do I have that?  Why am I keeping that?  Why did I buy that? 
For instance, from where I am sitting right now, I can see a whole bunch of books that I absolutely loved reading.  So, in my way of thinking, shouldn't I try to pass them along to someone else that I think might also enjoy them?  I am not saying that I should put all of my books in a bag and drop them off at the thrift store, but maybe I could pick a few each week to 'gift' to friends or family who I think might enjoy them.  Books are an easy one, and I actually have been doing this for some time now, but how many books are you hanging onto because you 'loved' them?  I say, if you love them, share the LOVE!

Okay, another example.  Baby stuff.  As you know, Trent and I have one baby, and are still thinking of having maybe one more, but I had a whole pile of stuff sitting in my basement not being used.  This makes me totally crazy, so, I farmed it out to my friends who have babies.  Am I worried about what would happen if I had another one?  No, because in my way of thinking, people will just keep paying it forward and we'll either end up with some of the same stuff or maybe even different stuff.  After all, it is just that: 'stuff'.  And 'stuff' isn't as important as people, or the relationships that you have with them.  Oh, and giving 'stuff' to people and sharing the wealth that you have with others actually improves the way that you feel about yourself in the world.  And no, I am not exaggerating. 

Okay, now for the realistic side of my brain to speak.  I know that the above notions aren't going to work for everyone.  With my ridiculous fantastical notions of the above utopian lifestyle, I hope you know that I am trying to make a reasonable point.  The point is this: if you're not using it, find someone who will, and if you don't need to buy it, don't.  If it helps, try to think of all of your 'objects' as little people who need good 'homes' (as long as this doesn't automatically increase your attachment to them!)

I think that it is in our human nature to covet the objects that we have spent our hard-earned money on.  I will readily admit that there are definitely objects in my house that I am still 'attached' to.  But these are objects that I use (and love) everyday, and that I get a great deal of use out of. 

These are some of my thoughts (and fantasies) of late.  I have had a lot of time to think lately as I have been in bed with the flu for the past few days so I apologize for the lack of writing.  You can expect me to post more regularly this week!

“Covet wealth, and want it; don't, and luck will grant it” - Chinese Proverb

Marebare :)


  1. There was this woman that I used to work with who was really in to knitting. One day, we were chatting and she mentioned that she was going to sell her house and move into a different one. Her children were grown and it was now just her in the house, so I assumed that she was downsizing.

    But as the discussion progressed, I discovered (to my horror) that my assumption was incorrect! As it turned out, she had accumulated so much stuff... mostly yarn and other knitting supplies, that she could no longer fit it into her 3 bedroom house, so she was actually moving into a bigger one!

    That story makes me sad. A three bedroom house filled to the brim with yarn isn't enough? If there's a hole in your heart, no amount of things will ever fill it.

    On the more practical side of things... I've made a fair portion of my income by selling off old things that I no longer use (eBay, Amazon etc.) Granted, my need for money is small these days so it doesn't take much to constitute a significant portion of my income! But it makes me happy that someone will be using it, and I enjoy getting paid to take nice walks to the post office every now and then.

    A group of my friends and I used to do an annual clothing exchange, where we'd all clean out our closets. I've read about people doing these with lots of rules... we never bothered. We just all brought in whatever we didn't want, and took home whatever we did. The rest got donated to charity. Everybody went home with a few new treasures and it was the most fun you can have playing dress up with a group of girlfriends. Seems like you could do similar things with kid's stuff, books, music or whatever.

    Once you stop hanging on to things so tightly, you realize that stuff just flows in and out of our lives, and trying to control it only blocks up the flow!

  2. Ohhhh! Love the idea of the clothing exchange... I will have to throw that out there once all of my girlfriends are finally finished being pregnant! (Although I guess we could have a maternity swap-a-thon too!) Great idea, sounds like a great way to spend an evening! And your last quote is a keeper. It went straight into my quote book. These words have resonated with me so clearly it isn't even funny!