I returned to Australia with 47 kilograms of luggage. Waiting for me in my temporary bedroom were three more large travelling bags crammed full of clothes. In the wardrobe hung some of my “good’ clothes. In my car, a suitcase filled with more clothes along with shoes, bags, toiletries and other belongings piled loosely and in small bags on the back sea. In my sister’s storage container I have furniture, bedding, books, kitchen goods, a bicycle, an oil heater and more stuff that I’ve forgotten about and might remember when I see it again. At my dad’s house, I have a box of clothes and souvenirs sent from India, more clothes hanging in his spare wardrobe along with my old camera lenses (I hope.)
On my second day back in Australia I had to declare my temporary bedroom a disaster zone after an uncontrolled clothes-plosion. I opened the bags pulling out their contents, reacquainting and remembering an old life. The clothes ended up everywhere and eventually, a few days later, I had to fold and sort them into piles. At first I was excited to have more clothes and more choice but when I stood back and looked at the piles on my fold-out bed, I felt surprised and a little shocked. I have accumulated and hung on to many clothes, so many, that I’m fairly sure there is no way I would wear every item in a year.
After travelling and living overseas for almost 2 ¼ years with only a large bag of clothes and personal items plus a separate bag of diving equipment (which was already too much to move around easily) coming back to so many belongings is slightly overwhelming. It feels burdensome and restrictive. Owning so much stuff makes relocating more cumbersome but it also adds to this feeling of being cluttered with things that I don’t really need taking up unnecessary space in my life.
When I was away, I didn’t need much stuff. Sometimes I wished I had more choice in clothing but I put something on that I liked to wear and went on with my day. I shopped for clothes mainly out of necessity and not in excess. I occasionally enjoyed window-shopping but I much preferred to be at the beach instead of a shopping centre. Back here in Melbourne, I am noticing my impulse to shop return. I can barely drive past a shop window without seeing something I would like to own even though I know I have more than enough back at home. I’m trying to keep my eyes focused straight ahead instead.
And it seems that advertising does exactly what it is designed to do, it makes me feel like I need things that I don’t really need. I know I don’t need them because I’ve lived perfectly happily without them.
A writer I follow by email used to keep an inventory of everything she owned on her website for all to see. I like the idea of the inventory, to see exactly what I own and to hold myself accountable to my true needs. I would definitely think twice before buying something and adding it to the inventory for all to see. At the moment, to compile an inventory of my current belongings would probably take a week, at least, and I have more important things to address.
I’ve been back in Melbourne for ten days now and I am confused and uncertain about what my next steps are. I have stopped putting pressure on myself to find a job and get on with life here because I’m just not quite ready to do it. After all, I’ve barely landed and unpacked. All this stuff and all this clutter isn’t helping my clarity. I feel the urge to simplify, to get rid of everything I don’t need but at the same time there is a reluctance to let it go in case I miss it or need it one day. But really, how much past owned stuff do we need or miss right now in this present moment? When it’s gone, it’s gone and we continue with our lives or we go out and buy it again if we really need it.
Along with considering how much is enough stuff, I’m also asking myself how much is enough money. How much money do I need to earn to put a roof over my head, pay the bills and to live the life I want to live? To be honest, I never really had to think about this before. I never even considered potential earnings when I first started working in financial planning. I picked it as a career as a way of helping people using my natural talents and abilities. I worked hard and the money just followed. I never even had to ask for a pay rise it was just given. I became comfortable earning a certain level of income and so now the thought of potentially changing careers and earning less (potentially far less) makes me uncomfortable and scared of not having enough, of having to struggle and most critically of losing the freedom that I have had.
So how much is enough? Have you ever thought about how much you need in your life? This is the question I’m currently sitting with as I slowly readjust to Australian life and I work out exactly what I want and what I need in my life.