It turns out that what I am doing is ‘a thing’. As in, with magazine articles, sites and blogs and forums dedicated to it. I know I shouldn’t be surprised at this, but as someone who grew up without the internet I continually have to remind myself that IT HAS EVERYTHING. That whatever I can imagine, is there, and that there is a ‘club’ for everyone. Well almost everyone, but more on that later.
I was chatting to my stepson when he came up after Christmas about what it is like for young people with the internet having your mates post embarrassing pictures of you etc, where we got away with it with only each other’s memories which were hazy at best, but also about how you don’t ever have to be embarrassed about not knowing things, because you can just discreetly look them up.
I have huge holes in my knowledge partly from studying only a health course at university and so only knowing about limited field, and also from being lazy- I could have educated myself by reading huge books on history and philosophy, as my husband has, but I haven’t. Plus I don’t watch and wasn’t brought up with much television, so my popular knowledge is patchy, compounded now by not reading magazines or newspapers. Which is probably why I only came across the term ‘voluntary simplicity’ last week.
I ‘fit into’ this category in terms of the following: in September I reduced my hours from working five days a week to four days a week, valuing time over money. I have also been seriously decluttering: I have given loads of stuff to charity and have arranged to give away the furniture when we go. We will be keeping only a double futon and mattress, a blanket box/seat, two small wooden boxes, some storage baskets, a pouffe, a lamp, essential kitchen items, warm clothes and work clothes, a bit of camping stuff, a few tools and a small amount of basic crockery/kitchen stuff, all for our small space minimal life on our return; plus essential paperwork, and some sentimental items- I have mine down to one A4 box file of loved clippings, poems, photocopied pages from favourite books and two little Chinese cat ornaments. Not bad for a person who has been here for 47 years. Other than that, it will just be a backpack each with our things for travelling.
My son’s old schoolbooks, plaster handprints, special craft projects, and childhood drawings, which are all carefully mounted in polypockets in lever arch files, I will give to him to reminisce with/have a laugh with his girlfriend over, then they can be stored in my mum’s loft if he doesn’t have room for them.
My son is completely on board with my plans, whereas the older generations are finding it a little more challenging. So before everyone arrived on Christmas Day my husband and I said, best not to mention too much about us selling the house etc. My son said yes, he understood- he has been on the receiving end of much unsolicited advice from the older generation about getting normal job. My husband and I completely support him doing his own thing and being an artist, so we laughingly said, just remember, we can always bring up how you haven’t got a job yet. My son said, yeah, and I’ll say, hey what about mum and John, giving away all their possessions to live out of a back pack! We all laughed. I know it’s not nice to criticise others but it’s a good way to bond, and we’ve all struggled with the forceful opinions of the older generation as we’ve tried to go our own way. I have explicitly told him that he is free to do whatever he wants, and he knows that he is.
Back to clubs (and categories and tribes). It’s great that everything is a thing and that there is a group for everything but the trouble with me is that I don’t just do one thing. I mean, I am into lots of different things but of the different things I might only be into one aspect. It’s like if it was a Venn diagram, I’d be out there at the edges, part of loads of things but not intersecting with anything else, always just at the edges of a scene.
I might declutter and live somewhere small, but I drive a car and have zero interest in growing my own vegetables. And I probably think pretty much like an original hippy, but I don’t look like one. I like to do a bit of yoga and drink smoothies and eat healthily, except for when I don’t, so I can’t really say I’m part of the kale smoothie yoga club either. And sometimes I like to be irresponsible and unhealthy. But I only do it sometimes, my life is not infused with constant drama and hangovers, so I’m not really part of that scene either.
My life has always been like that. Maybe travelling will be good for that, because I really won’t belong, so my outside will match my inside and be completely congruous- as a traveller I won’t belong anywhere. Or maybe as a traveller I will actually belong anywhere and everywhere!