TOO MUCH STUFF? FLOW AND F.L.O.W.
Spirituality & Health|Mar/Apr 2021
Inspired by Benedictine simplicity, BECKY GARRISON looks for ways to keep her space less cluttered.
BECKY GARRISON

EVEN THOUGH I first moved to Manhattan carrying only a few suitcases, I soon amassed more junk than I could reasonably carry as I moved from furnished sublet to furnished sublet. With each move, I would load up several trash bags filled with cheaply made items and toss them— only to purchase similar items again once I settled into my new abode.

During this time, I also started to escape the city by attending retreats at local monasteries and convents. In addition to offering gracious hospitality to all who crossed through their doors, the monks also taught me about the Benedictine practice of simplicity.

This practice asks: What does a monk really need in his cell?

During my retreats, I could answer this question with ease—toothpaste, shampoo/conditioner, body lotion, deodorant, notebook, pen, hand soap, and clothes to last for the duration. Electronics were either prohibited or discouraged. I was fed three meals a day, and I could peruse the library for any reading material. Like a monk, I didn’t need much in my room to keep me happy and content.

I never thought of applying this concept to my everyday life until I left Manhattan to attend divinity school. There I had a dorm room that closely resembled a monk’s cell. Grad school consumed my life and I lacked the time and financial resources to accumulate more junk. I had no difficulty keeping my space orderly.

But once I graduated, keeping my stuff in order again proved to be a challenge. By now I was a professional writer. I received a steady stream of review copies of magazines, books, CDs, and other media, not to mention seas of SWAG (stuff we all get). Each new hobby I pursued meant more equipment. I soon had far more stuff than my small Manhattan closet could reasonably accommodate.

When I left Manhattan to travel the country with only a rolling bag in hand, I did a deep purge of my possessions. This left me with a liberated feeling, although I needed to buy a few necessities along the way.

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