28 Feb 2018

How easy is it really, to walk away empty handed?

"It is desirable that a man... live in all respects so compactly and preparedly that if an enemy take the town, he can, like the old philosopher, walk out the gate empty-handed without anxiety."
David Henry Thoreau

I love the idea of the above quote. To be so unattached to my things that I'm able to walk away after a fire, flood or war and miss nothing. To have nothing that can't be replaced. It sounds so freeing.

This quote is from Thoreau's book 'Walden' published in 1854 and the paragraph this was taken from was discussing the merits of quality clothing versus cheap thin clothing. Taken out of it's context though, it sounds like everything should be easily walked away from and that's how I am taking it for this blog post.

I guess in 1854 it was a lot easier to walk away from everything. I'm not sure it's so simple now.
So I asked myself, what things in 2018 would I have difficulty leaving behind and can I find a way around losing them? 

After a bit of thought I decided there are three main things that I would have difficulty leaving behind.
  1. Important documents
  2. Photographs
  3. Artwork

Important documents

I know from experience how hard it can be trying to prove your identity in a modern world without the correct paperwork. The modern fixation with red tape and bureaucracy have made it extremely frustrating, costly and time consuming to get anything done and if you don't have proper identification you pretty much don't exist in the eyes of some places.
A possible way around losing these documents could be keeping them in a fireproof safe or a safe deposit box at the bank. This wouldn't save them from everything that could possibly happen to them but it would sure take a load off your mind knowing they were as safe as you could make them.

In a modern world where everyone shares their breakfast lunch and dinner with you online it can seem like there's too many family photos to keep safe but if you look hard at the images you have and only keep the very best photos, discarding multiples, blurry images, over or under-exposed images and the weird images (you know the ones where someone makes a face, or shuts their eyes or sneezes), you'll find that you have very few to store. 
I noticed a while back, on a news report about the Syrian refugees, that quite a few of them had packed photos on mobile phones and usb sticks in their belongings. I have a usb stick with important photos on it too, just in case, but in reality I know I might not have it with me if a disaster struck so I also have them online in cloud storage. As long as I can remember my passwords I can access them from anywhere. I also share some images on Instagram and Facebook so I can see them there too. 

When I was a child and some of my artwork got damaged I used to get upset about it but nowadays I work small, take photos or scans of my work and sell it printed on items online. The original images stay with me but if they were lost or destroyed I'd still be able to see them online so I'm not really too worried about this either. 

It seems to me that anything I may be worried about losing in 2018 is in fact safely backed up or can be safely stored with a bit of forward planning. Maybe it's easier for me to walk away from home empty handed than I thought because everything I care about is backed up safely.

"But wait", I hear you say, "What about jewelry, or trinkets handed down?" 
Well, I don't associate things with people. I love photos because they can remind you of the people you love and places you've been, which I think would be very useful in later life if I had dementia but I don't get those sorts of feelings from things. They're just things to me. I have no interest in glittery things either. I don't wear rings. I only wear sleepers in my ears and own no other earrings. My only necklace is a Maori carving in green-stone on a piece of leather that my husband and children bought me one year for Mother's day and if that got destroyed in a fire I'd still know my family loves me. It wouldn't be the end of the world for me to lose any of it. It's just stuff. 

I guess at the end of the day, it is possible for me to walk out and leave everything I care about behind, as long as technology is backing me up. I mean really, if the world was ending and the cloud disappeared I think I'd have more to worry about than a few photos and drawings.
Is that cheating? Yep, I think so, we have so many more ways to access what is important to us now than they did in 1854, but, to be fair, I think nowadays we have become much more bogged down in red tape and bureaucracy as individuals and somehow we have now also become the keeper of our family histories. As we now document every little everyday thing thing that we do, I think we have created a huge load/responsibility for ourselves to preserve things that I'm not even sure should matter that much.

I guess as individuals we each have to decide what matters to us and what doesn't and that's what minimalism is all about really. Sifting through your stuff, your commitments, your life and decluttering the rest, so that we can all live as freely as possible.

(I hope it goes without saying that the most important things in my life aren't the above things. My family and our newest family member Bayley, a black Labrador are way more important than papers, photos or art.)

I'll leave you with a pic of Bayley.
Have a great week!

Okay maybe three because she's so gorgeous!