Posted in Things

Life clean-up, part 2: Material(istic) girl

Second post in the Life clean-up series, I tackle here my ongoing tackling against the whole lot of stuff I’ve accumulated in the past years.

Back in 1984, Madonna sang about how cold hard cash makes Mr. Right, in the iconic track Material Girl.  It has so far been mistaken as an anthem of materialism, and coined Madonna as The Material Girl but, people forget (I for one, am guilty as charged) that at the end of the video, she rejects the diamonds she was supposed to be singing about, she decided to take the cheap daisies instead.

I had to check the Wikipedia for the song, and watch the entire video again as I sat down to write this post.  A closer inspection at the lyrics confirms my realization:

Some boys kiss me, some boys hug me
I think they’re O.K.
If they don’t give me proper credit
I just walk away
Some boys romance, some boys slow dance
That’s all right with me
If they can’t raise my interest then I
Have to let them be

These are the most poignant samples in the entire song, and I’d like to think that they are in which Madonna sings of her wish to be taken as a human being, and not as an object to be showered upon with material things just so men can get what they’re after; but in a humorous tone, she goes “oh woe, we live in a material(istic) world, and thus she has to be a “material(istic) girl”.

Madonna - Material Girl
… but diamonds still don’t hurt (wink wink nudge nudge).

A short history of hoarding.

As seen in my introductory post, I have a whole lot of makeup, notebooks, and pens.  What’s not pictured are my letter-writing stationery, art materials, clothes, accessories, and junk that I might use for “crafts projects” — and those are just for the room in the current apartment I live in.  I don’t even want to begin about the crap I have in my room at my Dad’s house (and my Dad’s house and his hoarding tendencies-bordering-on-disorder is a different story altogether).

When I started working and steadily earning money, one of the first things I did was to buy the things I never got around to buy because of my limited pocket money: music CDs, video CDs/DVDs, books, clothes, accessories, and materials to engage in hobbies.  It was good when I started — I actually got around to watching and reading, I replaced my worn out hand-me-down clothes, and I enjoyed drawing and making beaded accessories.

Soon, the need was surpassed by want.  On one hand, I brought things under the pretext that I need “reserves” and “spares” — extra set of colored pencils, extra blue beads, this CD/DVD/book for listening/watching/reading later.  In terms of makeup, I brought anything I considered “new” with the excuse of experimenting.  On the other hand, I hesitated to get rid of things: old class handouts, activity books from high school, class notes, old clothes.  I held on to them in the hopes that I would find them useful, or that I would find someone who might find them useful.

(c) Patrick McDonnell

Of course, there’s nothing wrong in having spares — but more than half of my art materials remain unused (if not just “tried”), my to-watch list of movies is still too long for my own good, my reading speed is too slow for me to make a dent in my to-read pile, and as much as I’d like to play around with make-up, there’s only so much I can use within a year.  Any old thing I held onto didn’t find any takers, even years after I graduated from college.

Thankfully, my clothes found some use as donations to relief drives, but I can’t be waiting for disasters to happen to get rid of old clothes — besides, in waiting, they get too worn and unfit to be given a second wind by someone else.  I like to be able to give things away while they can still be properly (and pleasantly) used.

To give away, and to feel fulfilled.

Moving out of my Dad’s house helped a lot in controlling my spending and hoarding.  First of all, there’s the limited space.  Second, I eventually found that rearranging my room, and moving this object just to obtain another object is a waste of time and energy that I could be focusing on something else.

(c) Jerry Scott and Jim Borgman

About a month ago, I started giving things away.  When I shared A Guide to Living with Less over on Facebook, I candidly offered to give away make-up, books, and accessories.  I didn’t expect anyone to respond, but I got four takers.  In the process of packing things in gift bags, I also set things aside for friends who didn’t respond, but  whom I knew needed items that I already possess and that I haven’t used in months.  I ended up assembling eight gift bags, and in the process, I set things aside that I can use as Christmas and birthday gifts for the upcoming half of the year.

I started to give the gift bags away last week.  A part of me expected my recipients to be angry at me — they might’ve felt that I was treating them like charity cases, or that I’m the biggest cheapskate in the world for giving them second-hand things.  I was proven wrong: my recipients so far have been happy about the “freebies”.  I made sure to include a letter, telling them that they are free to give them away, too.

Walking that road towards (material) simplicity.

This weekend, I’ve made a mental inventory of the things that are in my room — what’s in my closet, in my all-around shelf, in my under-bed drawers, on the top of my desk.  I then filtered them according to my Top Five priorities:

  • Do they contribute to my relationships?
  • Do they contribute to my mental or physical health, or are they causing me stress?
  • Do they contribute to my being creative, or are they sitting around collecting dust and/or preventing me from engaging in my creative activities?

If my answers to the above questions over certain items are in the negative, they are marked for disposal.  If I didn’t believe they’d be useful to other people, I immediately threw them away.

As an intermediary, I made a list of the essential consumable commodities I buy on a regular intervals (weekly, monthly, bi-monthly), such as food items, household products, and bath and body products.  I was surprised to have filled a back-to-back sheet of A4 paper, keeping to one column on each side.  I actually felt that I could’ve filled three sheets of paper, but I realized with that exercise, that I really didn’t need much to survive, to take good care of myself and my environment, and to engage in what I find most important.

While I mention “time” a few times in this road to simplistic materialism, another benefit is being able to have better control over finances: you want less, you spend less.  I’ll be touching upon those points in my next post.  See you then!



Redeemed. French language specialist by trade. Writer, visual artist, and singer by design.

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