Abundance Is Too Much


I'm downsizing my life.

What that means in practice is:

I am selling my house because it's 2,600 square feet and way too large for one person and a French bulldog;

I am looking for something smaller. I am going to reduce my mortgage by at least 50 percent;

and, I am giving away lots of "had to have" items I probably never needed in the first place and definitely will not need going forward.

Maybe this is related, come to think of it: I am at the stage of life where I am willing to wait for movies to make it to Netflix. I'm okay with road company tours of last year's Broadway shows. I see a book I want, I check the library first. (And then, if they don't have it, I allow myself to buy it. There is a limit.)

"Why didn't we do this years ago?" a friend asked recently. She is pursuing a similar downsizing plan.

"Because we weren't ready," I said.

She nodded. "Yeah."

"We had all these ideas about our lives and what they would be and what we deserved because we work so hard and what it means to be a success and have the means to buy a lot of things," I said.

She nodded. Then I nodded, too.

She sighed. Then I sighed, too.

And then I said, "You know what? We have stopped needing abundance. Abundance is too much."

As soon as I said that I thought to myself, Whoa. Write that down. There's more there. Go deeper. Explore, Magellan. Set sail.

So I'm cleaning my closets and drawers and getting the house ready to put on the market. While I straighten and declutter, I think about abundance.

And this comes floating in.

"Eat! Children are starving in Eastern Europe!"

Maybe you remember that one? The order to consume greater amounts because less fortunate children had nothing but a few rotten potatoes.

The idea was simple. Over-consume because you can. Over-spend and overdo because the flip side is too awful to contemplate and feels like failure. The more the better. Do whatever you need to do to stave off the big bad bogeyman of scarcity. Eat more, buy more, spend more, drink more, shop more.

So the sign  --  the mark  --  of a successful person is more. Lots and lots more. Whoever has the greatest number of toys when they die...

Or so that commandment suggests.

But what if scarcity is not, in fact, the opposite of abundance? What if the actual opposite of abundance is sufficiency? The order would then become:

Eat until you've had enough and give the rest of it to someone who does not have enough. Achieve balance.

I believe this is what we Baby Boomers are starting to understand now. We are hitting our mid- or late 50s or early 60s, and some of us (many of us, hopefully) are waking up to the reality that we do not need abundance. That abundance does not, in fact, give meaning to our lives. That abundance (excluding abundance of love) means this and only this: The more stuff you have, the bigger the pain in the ass it is to move.

And that brings me back to why 3,100 square feet for one person and a small Frenchie is abundant. And why I'm moving. And downsizing my life.

Because there is mobility and freedom and a lightness in being when we lose our need for abundance and live in sufficiency. When we let go. When we let it all go. Or at least a good portion of it.

The bearable, oh so bearable, lightness of being.

Let's give a shout-out to David Bowie and Alan Rickman. Because they died within 48 hours of one another, they died fairly young, their deaths were a shock and their deaths made me stop in my tracks and say, Wow, time for some ch-ch-ch-changes. NOW.

Scale it back. Size it down. Go smaller, leaner, more mobile, lighter, freer, more connected to love than to all the stuff. More attuned to the natural world. Better attuned to our bodies. Taking care of our bodies. Cherishing and nourishing them and trying to keep them healthy and hold the bad stuff at bay. To be more likely to dance, even it's very, very badly.

I'm not aiming for an alms bowl here. Not stripping it back to poverty levels. Of course not.

Also, I am very specifically and intentionally not romanticizing the lives of the poor  --  the food insecure, the homeless, the destitute  --  because theirs is a different and legitimately horrifying situation. And demands our empathy and our help.

Downsizing my life is making me take stock of the situation. And ask  --  about every item  --  do I need this? Do I want this? If so, why? What would my life without this be like? How would I feel about myself if I didn't have this? How would I feel if I gave this away?

How would it feel to dance, even very, very badly?

That's what I'm becoming about now. Staring down the barrel at 60 (still three years away but, last I checked, three years go by in about 11 minutes...) and wanting way, way less. Just enough. Sufficient. Light.

For the record, the French bulldog is not buying this strategic plan. He is about abundance. In love and in kibble. And that's okay with me. There will plenty of both in the smaller house. In fact, there will be an abundance.

A version of this piece originally appeared in Midcentury Modern on Medium.

Photo credit: The Chicago Art Department

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