On excess, and having more than you need

Whenever I’m away from home; be it at a friend’s house for the weekend or on the other side of the world, I always feel like I get much greater mental clarity and feel inspired to make positive changes at home and in my life generally.  This morning I woke up in Wales, in the comfiest of beds and a beautiful light bedroom, with one word in my head – excess.  It’s not a word I regularly use (or a concept I’ve ever thought about in any detail), but I pondered it for a little while, especially when I considered that one of my aims for last year was to attempt to find more balance in my life.  To me, excess is what happens once you have tipped the balance in the wrong direction, I wondered if this little seed might have been planted in my subconscious to reflect on how excess might be sneaking into my life in some way.

It would be fair to say that ‘excess’ – going over what is desirable, having a lack of moderation or being over-sufficient or un-needed… is something that is present in many areas of my life.  I thought about this as I lay in bed this morning; about how there’s always a ‘sweet spot’ for everything, a point where you something is ‘enough’ and to have more would tip into excess.  I know that I can never just have a handful of crisps, one or two pairs of shoes, one glass of wine at the pub or one slice of pizza.  I eat chocolate until I feel sick, fill up my weeks and weekends with evening plans until I’m exhausted and stressed, say yes to so many blogging projects that I end up having to set early alarms to blog before work, and can’t seem to take up a new hobby without buying every book that’s ever been written on it.

It’s fair to say that I might just have an inclination towards excess.  It’s why my house is bursting at the seams.  Take books for example.  I sorted out my books the other day and gave two huge sacks of them to the charity shop.  But I still have an entire bookshelf with books I haven’t read yet.  Books I’ve seen mentioned on Twitter and had to immediately buy.  Books with pretty covers I was tempted by in the bookshop.  Books by authors I heard on a podcast once.  Books I picked up in charity shops, books I bought with Christmas money or books I’ve borrowed from friends (sorry, friends).  I probably have at least 50 books on that bookshelf.  But most nights I climb into bed, check Twitter for ten minutes and then turn off the light.  I’m definitely not reading enough to justify a 50 book ‘to-read pile’.

Perhaps the problem is that I am greedy.  Another crisp, another dress, another book – all in the pursuit of that warm fuzzy feeling you get when you’re surrounded by things that you love.  But there is a tipping point.  I think that there is a point when the pleasure you get from those things that you love are devalued by over-production, over-indulgence.  There was a quote in the paper from Tom Hanks today – “Eating everything you want is not that much fun. When you live a life with no boundaries, there’s less joy.”  I think that’s true with everything.  Having, and doing everything you want, unbridled, with no off button, no point at which you say no – is not a good way to live (for me at least).

Whilst wandering around Monmouth today we went into a little bookshop and I saw a book called L’art de Simplicite by Dominique Loreau.  When I opened it up, the first chapter was called ‘Material Excess’.  Don’t you just love it when you get a little message from the universe like that? (Okay, it’s another book to go on the shelf, but still).  I’ve already done a lot of Marie Kondo-ing at home but I have a feeling that tackling this is going to need more than just a clothes and books clearout, and hopefully this book will have some answers.

I’m going to make a concerted effort from now on to find that sweet spot, to not go beyond that tipping point into excess.  I need to remind myself that I don’t have to buy another dress or another pair of shoes to feel satisfied.  I need to stop myself from spending £20 on sweets, chocolate and popcorn when I nip into the shop to get a treat to watch a film with – or from ordering three courses and extra dough balls when I go to Pizza Express.  I need to manage my diary better and remind myself that I really don’t need to arrange to do things every night for a month to feel like I’m making the most of my time.  But probably most of all, I need to remember that happiness comes from more than just things – and hopefully that finding that balance and simplicity will be just as fulfilling as adding another pair of shoes to my collection…