Just Enough and Not Too Much

by Lesley on October 21, 2013 · 10 comments

in lessons learned

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Recently I checked out a book from the library called Just Enough and Not Too Much. It’s the story of Simon the Fiddler who has a cozy little house and everything he needs. He has a chair to sit on, a bed to sleep in, food to eat and clothes to wear. He has a soft hat, a toy animal, good friends and a beautiful fiddle with a voice as sweet as honey. For a long time, Simon is perfectly happy. But one day, Simon looks around his little house and says, “I don’t have enough. I WANT MORE!”

The story goes on to tell about how Simon got another chair, and another and another. And then another hat and another and another. Soon he’s collected lots of toys, hats, and chairs but he’s not any happier. So Simon plans a big party for his friends and gives away all the extra items he’s collected until he’s perfectly happy again.

Every time I read Anna the story I thought about how easy it is to keep collecting stuff we don’t need. For me, accumulating clothes is the biggest problem. Often it seems I never have “enough” jeans, shoes or cardigans. I make lists of what I’d like to buy next season, and if I have $50 I’d rather spend it on three or four cheaper items than one high quality sweater or pants. As a result, I have a lot of so-so clothes.

It’s funny how we think MORE will make us feel BETTER.

But like Simon the Fiddler, I’ve realized a full closet doesn’t do anything for the state of my heart. In fact, the mess and disorganization from storing too many items actually makes me feel anxious and guilty.

Yesterday I spent a few hours working on my semi-annual closet organizing. I swapped out all of my seasonal clothes and took inventory of what I really need for the cooler months. (The process is never fun but this year I also had maternity clothes to sort through, which makes me take inventory of what I can and can’t fit into yet. Blech.) I tried to think about what I actually wear, what’s still in good shape, and what needs to be retired. Every part of me has to battle the creeping worry, “But what if you need this item someday?”

Despite giving away clothes twice a year (sometimes more) my closet still busts at the seams! While organizing I realized there are items I’ve had just one season that are already worn and faded. There are also items I’ve had for years but they still look great after many wears. Some of you have probably seen me wear a little black Esprit cardigan, which I’ve had since my senior year of high school (!!) and a black eyelet halter dress from Banana Republic which my mom purchased for me in late college. One of my favorite small purses is a leather Coach bag from my grandma (at least 10 years old) and a pair of hand-me-down Lulu Lemon black pants from Tammy that still look good and feel great despite many wears and washes. Funny how many of my favorite and long lasting items of clothing are black in color, and come from well made (but pricier) brands.

After loading up two whole garbage bags of clothes our closet is less crowded but still at maximum capacity. If I could cut back just a bit more I’d probably wear a lot of my clothes more simply because I’d be able to see them! And yet, breaking my clothes habit will take time and discipline. Maybe it’s time for me to try Stitch Fix and limit myself to one high quality purchase a month.

My friend Bronwyn wrote a great post this week called One Question to Ask if You’re Wondering “Should I Buy This?”  In it she says that when managing her belongings a rule of thumb is: if she’s not willing to lend it out, she shouldn’t own it. Items are for a USE, and people trump possessions. And really, this is what Simon the Fiddler figured out too. What makes us happy can’t be measured in numbers.

Funny how it’s so easy to forget this simple truth.

I’m curious–is there an area in your life where you buy or consume too much? 

Also, here’s a great e-book I read last year for anyone trying to change how they think about their wardrobe.

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