Believe it or not, before running away to islands and drop zones nearly three years ago, I had a grown up job…a career, even…that demanded extensive interaction with the public. Often, the interface took place in the homes of my clients, depending on the purpose of the meeting. Most of my clientele were middle-upper to upper class. (I’ve been off the grid…do we still say that? “Class?”) Either way, they had money. Or, rather, they earned a lot. And, the bank owned their McMansions and dual BMWs sitting side by side in the 4 car garage. Inside, the homes were professionally decorated, matchy-matchy formal crap, that was, to me, a waste of good money. It wasn’t tasteful. (to me) It was ostentatious. (to me) It was pretentious. (to me) Oddly, several homeowners complained about some obscure detail…a needle in the haystack of a 10k’ spread…seemingly fishing for acknowledgement of their domicile. Sorry. I don’t play that game. If I am not impressed, I certainly won’t express it, but, I won’t go out of my way to rub your belly and tell you what nice things you have. I truly live by the code of not intentionally intimidating others, nor trying to impress them. The downside to that, for some, is that it’s a two way street. I’m not impressed or intimidated by you or your stuff, either. It works, for me. Not so much for those desperately seeking to be envied. I don’t envy that you are in debt up to your eyeballs. I’ve had many lives. One of them entailed the house, in the snotty, or “upscale” neighborhood. It was beautiful. It had every imaginable creature comfort. I loved it, for a while. And, then, I’m not sure what metamorphosis took place, but my inner minimalist was dying a little each day for lack of lack. I had entirely too much. Too much space. Too much stuff. Too many clothes. Too many toys. Too. MUCH. As I started to rid myself of big ticket items, some friends became concerned. I couldn’t, after all, offer a feasible explanation, other than, “This isn’t ME.” I gave away a lot. I sold a lot. I still filled a small bungalow, and had a 5BR storage unit FILLED with crap. I had to pare down, more. Eventually, I was quite satisfied with what I owned. And, even happier with what I didn’t. I felt free, unencumbered, light. I felt authentic. I’d been buried beneath the authority of consumerism for so long, it took several years of deprogramming (cable went, too) to get a feel for what surroundings made me feel at home. Who knew it would mean moving to a tiny 2 BR charmer in the historic district of Old Colorado City…it was tiny, quaint, and not scaled for my furniture, artwork, or kitchen table. My clothing had to be pared down, again. I gave away more bedding. I gave away an entire bedroom, in fact…the bed, dresser, nightstands and all. Once people were comfortable with the fact that I was not on some awful path to leave this world, they were hauling my stuff away by the truckloads. And, I was happy. Why tell you all of that? Well, it goes back to the mansions and BMWs I mentioned. As I sat with these couples, or sometimes, an individual, so many were visibly unhappy. They carried a bundle of stress on their shoulders with which they’d been saddled for years. They didn’t smile much. Their eyes were sad. The interaction between the husband and wife was often icy, at best. I’ve excused myself more than once to step outside, pretending to take a call, as I sensed an argument brewing between a couple, and it had so little to do with why I was there. It was a beautiful prison, the house I moved out of when I downsized, and it was the feeling I got when these exchanges took place. A beautiful, fully furnished, unwanted, expensive prison. One evening, in particular, I had been asked by a client if I could arrive later than our original appointment. As my GPS told me I’d arrived, there, towering before me was a single family home with 13 bedrooms. Only the husband and wife lived there. They had two kids away at college who didn’t come home often enough, according to mom. Dad rolled his eyes behind her back. Ouch. No love, here. None. It was as cold as the marble pillars on either side of the foyer. As I passed by their open garage, a new Mercedes and a Lexus, just as fresh, filled two of the spots, paper tags still in place. From no where, I almost threw my hand over my mouth to avoid blurting out, “If no one EVER saw your home, or your cars…Would you live at this address…Would you drive these cars? You don’t have to do this anymore.” I felt it. I took on the emotional weight between the couple and could easily envision their evenings filled with fights over “more.” More furniture, unnecessary renovations, arguments as to why the kids never came home. The poor dog was miserable, for crying out loud! I wanted to load them up in MY car, drive them to my little bungalow, make them dinner and listen to how they’d ended up with everything and nothing all at the same time. Ask any parent what their 5 year old wants for their birthday, and they’ll have toys with specific names…things you’ve never heard of if you don’t have a 5 year old, but every kid in their class has one. Not because they were put in a room with a hundred toys and allowed to be drawn to one of their choosing…but, because they were promised to be faster, smarter, tougher, prettier. I still don’t have cable (YEARS later) but when I do see a commercial, it is laughably obvious that a car company just promised males they will get the promotion and a better hairline if they buy their hunk of metal. Seriously. The claims are meticulously sculpted and hidden in even the beverages we buy. Our reticular activation is hijacked and suddenly, we desperately want something we didn’t care about last month. You know all those cameras in department stores, supermarkets, even small boutiques? Guess what? They’re not there just to thwart theft. The footage is studied by experts that glean insight as to where our heads turn as we walk down isles, what items we spend the most time searching for and store layouts are designed and reconfigured, accordingly. This is the reason why fresh baked goods and flowers are almost always placed near the entrance. You immediately want to linger. The colors, the smells, the sense of having YOUR home feel inviting has you shopping for more than flowers and bread. The same is true of any department store. Nothing is placed erratically where the aim is to take money from our hand in exchange for a promise. And, we buy it, literally and proverbially. Subtle or blatant, we associate brands with status. We attribute makes of cars with income and intellect. The really messed up part of this mental programming is how very seriously it jacks with not only our belief system about ourselves, but about each other. One of the commercials I HAVE seen, multiple times, makes my blood boil. It’s an ad for Subaru. It’s the one where the kids have a wreck. They call their parents, frightened to tell them they’ve damaged the car, but they are fine. The parents are just grateful and so relieved they’re exhausted, that they chose to purchase a Subaru, because that means their kids are coming home tonight. WTF. Can we all just take a minute and acknowledge that Subaru just punched every parent who has ever lost a child in a car crash, right in the gut?! Can we just get ANGRY at that for a moment?! How low can we go to appeal to human emotion, just to make a sale?? And, you can’t afford a Subi for your most precious cargo? Love would see to it that you found a way. Eff Subaru for this one, seriously. I know they’re great cars. They don’t come with “parent of the year” certificate, which is what mom’s and dad’s all subconsciously feel when they are out shopping for their kid’s first car. The reticular activator stored that awful ad for just this moment in time and it is playing on your consumerism. Don’t think so? I encourage you to do your own research in learning about just how big of a ring they put in our noses. You’ll do good to get through an hour of insight without fuming at how much our intellect is insulted, but, we’re so programmed, we’re not outraged. How do we respond? We buy more CRAP! If you’re with me, you’re standing in the pews now, yelling, “Preach!” (I’m truthfully angry, thinking about how passionate I am around the topic of consumption.) My point. (If I’ve never thanked each of you for allowing so many rabbit holes that you faithfully slide down, right behind me, THANK YOU. I know my writing becomes emotional…be it sappy or livid…and, you stay with me, the entire time…) MY POINT: It really is as simple as the first part of this piece…If no one ever saw your house, your car, your jewelry…if it was ALL and ONLY for your eyes and your enjoyment, would you own exactly what you own? And, would you owe exactly what you owe? You know how I like to challenge you rockstars…I am challenging you to locate the most despised nook or cranny in your home. It may be the coffee table that serves as a catch all, the shelf over your washer and dryer, your eternal mail pile….whatever it is, clean it up. Sort, purge, toss, organize and remove every bit of the “stuff” you try to ignore. And, make it cool. However that looks, to you…a picture of your dog, a piece of pottery you bought somewhere in Russia, or a Goodwill find of some eclectic, artsy sculpture. But, reduce. Sit with it for a few days and then, scan your home, again. You guessed it, pare down: numero dos. What if you hate minimizing and having less stuff? What if you don’t take comfort in the uncluttered space of your family room? No sweat, you didn’t marry the new, sleek, tranquil look…store your excess junk in the garage/attic and haul it all back in your house, spread it out, and, bam. You’re back in business. In all seriousness, coming from someone who’s lived in the extremes of both environments, minimizing is where it’s at. I always like sharing books/documentaries that have helped me on my path. One of the most life altering books I’ve read Is The Life Changing Magic Of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo. In this case, don’t sell this book short, based on the title. It absolutely forces you to look at your life through your accumulations- what gives you joy and what’s holding you back. Most of us grossly underestimate the effect our environment has on all aspects of our well-being. As always, I look forward to hearing from those who choose the challenge. In everything I write, my goal is that you walk away a tiny bit changed, provoked in thought, and motivated to discover your own epiphany. I’ll carry the light. Here’s to less, Peace, Warriors.