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Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Yarn Focus Challenge - Voluntary Simplicity...

I’ve just committed to something called the Yarn Focus Challenge. It’s a simple idea. The button for participating is in the sidebar over there. ---> It’s not the same thing as a yarn diet. As diets don’t usually work, the Yarn Focus Challenge attempts to increase awareness of the activity of indiscriminately purchasing yarn (I could add fabric in here, too!). It’s related to the philosophy of voluntary simplicity, which is not about poverty, but instead about bringing balance into our lives. Living intentionally. Being aware of what you do that works in your life and those things that don’t. Living lightly on the earth, living ecologically.

Earlier this month, I wrote about living an authentic life, in response to my dear “sis” Birdsong’s query on her blog. This post attempts to further define my idea of authenticity in my own life.

Duane Elgin is the “father” of the voluntary simplicity movement, and his book Voluntary Simplicity: Toward a Way of Life That is Outwardly Simple, Inwardly Rich is one that has graced my bookshelf and gotten much use over the years.

Early in the book, he states: “To live more voluntarily is to live more deliberately, intentionally, and purposefully – in short, it is to live more consciously…To live more simply is to live more purposefully and with a minimum of needless distraction. The particular expression of simplicity is a personal matter. We each know where our lives are unnecessarily complicated. We are all painfully aware of the clutter and pretense that weigh upon us and make our passage through the world more cumbersome and awkward. To live more simply is to unburden ourselves…to establish a more direct, unpretentious, and unencumbered relationship with all aspects of our lives: the things we consume, the work that we do, our relationships with others, our connections with nature and the cosmos, and more (pp. 24-25).”

My world routinely spins out of control…I can almost predict it, but not quite. Once I’ve been reeling for a couple of weeks, I suddenly think – OH! I’m doing it again…I’m losing focus, forgetting the things that work to make me feel more peaceful, more in control. And I can guarantee that it’s at these times that I buy things I do not need – yarn, fabric, magazines, books. It’s always a jolt when I bring myself up short and think “Knee-jerk reactions, not thinking, not focusing!”

This is what the Yarn Focus Challenge is about for me. This activity isn’t about NOT BUYING YARN. I can buy it if I really want it, if I feel there’s a project worth spending my time on for the use of it. But the Focus aspect of the Challenge is about the intellectual activity of not buying willy-nilly (I see it-it’s pretty-I want it-I buy it). It’s about living with intentionality. On the Yarn Focus Challenge, we step back and say…I can only buy yarn on ONE day this month. Is THIS the day? Do I really need THIS yarn, or do I have other yarn I want to buy, what are my plans for this yarn, is it really something I want or need? Will my planned purchase have to wait because I made this purchase (because the goal IS planned purchasing)?

There are a couple of concepts that seem, in my mind, to blend with this philosophy, too: the idea of delayed gratification. We tend to be a society to think that we deserve to have things right now. So with any purchase, if we want it, we get it. Credit makes that easy, but it’s not always the healthy thing to do, financially. And often, it’s a “quick fix” for our emotional ups and downs, I feel better when I buy, but then I’m back buying again because I’m not feeling up to snuff!

The other idea has to do with the sheer volume of STUFF we have: I get worked up whenever I drive by the storage facilities that have cropped up all over…thinking "that's just what we need – a place, out of sight, out of mind, for us to store all our stuff." How can anyone remember what they have when it's out of sight? Why would I rent space to store stuff if it isn’t necessary enough for me to keep under the same roof with me? Needless to say, storing excess stuff at a remote location redefines the concept of living lightly on the land, of keeping our “ecological footprints” small.

It’s a case of knowing when you have “enough.” Do you know what your personal definition of “enough” is? Because we're each individuals, the definition is different for each of us.

When I think about voluntary simplicity, and especially since I have a pretty good idea of what my personal “enough” is, I usually think of “things” – the “stuff” that I have too much of: yarn, fabric, magazines, clothes. But voluntary simplicity can have a lot to do with your relationships, with the manner in which you spend your time (do you spend your time as frivolously as you do your cash?), with the work you chose to do. Those areas are too broad for me to address here. But if you’re interested in the subject just spend a few minutes googling on Voluntary Simplicity. You’ll find a lot out there.

It’s spring, and spring cleaning thoughts abound right now. For me, the Yarn Focus Challenge is a time of spring cleaning, an opportunity to redefine how much is “enough” for me, and yet another occasion for me to step back and say, “breathe deeply, and think…does this work with my personal philosophy?”


teabird17 said...

I just requested Elgin's book through interloan - thanks for the reference. I'll definitely Google -

Breien in Lansingerland said...

Good idea. I have to travel quite a distance to get my yarn though - so when I buy I usually have the projects in mind to use it in. My children are also yarn when there is yarn left, it finds it way, one way or the other.