Wednesday 18 April 2012

P is for Poverty

I'm not talking poverty of the grinding variety here; that must be terrible. But I've always envied nuns their kind poverty. I wouldn't go for the chastity or the obedience, but to have the kind of poverty that religious orders have (clothing, food and shelter provided, but no possessions) must be wonderfully freeing.

Imagine not having to worry about those boots you really, really want (I have a thing about boots), but you don't feel comfortable about the price? Or are you (we, at the moment) justified in considering buying a new sofa, when yours (ours) is - well - you can still sit on it. Just. All those decisions about THINGS. How much should you give to charity? Can you really go out for a meal when people (even in this country at the moment) haven't got enough to eat? I wander down the aisles at Sinsburys, deciding what to buy. Do I go for a BOGOF, which saves money but we may not eat/use it all? Decisions, decisions...

And no clutter! All that - stuff we accumulate, most of which we don't need. All those papers, old clothes, the things of (dubious) sentimental value. Nuns don't have stuff. They're not allowed to. (When one of my sons arrived to move in with his then girlfriend, his stuff filled a whole van. When she saw it, the poor girl wept.)

And no money. Wonderful! We went bankrupt, many years ago, and I've never quite got over it. Nuns can't go bankrupt. They don't (as I used to) have to stand trembling by the hole in the wall, waiting for it to tell them if they have any money in the account.

Possessions are a terrible encumbrance. I think it was Leonard Cheshire who, in later life, gave up nearly all of his, and devoted himself to others. I wish I had his courage...


  1. I can just imagine you in 'Sinsburys' buying all those naughty things.

  2. Oh..stuff - I am often oppressed by the sheer amount of it we have. I want to get rid of it all and start again. Where does it all come from? (OK, I know the answer to that - it comes from having a family - our cellar is now filled not only with the boys' junk that they haven't been able to decide what to do with, but with stuff from my late mother in law's house which my other half can't decide what to do with.)
    What would I save from a fire, I often wonder. Everything that matters to me (that isn't people) is on my laptop - work, photos, organisation - everything else is just stuff. When we move, there will be a purge...

  3. When I was told that it looked as if my life might not last as long as I'd hoped it might I decided to dispose of lots of 'stuff' to save my son having to get rid of it.

    When I came to live for half of my life each year in New Zealand where I had no stuff I found it very liberating.

    Seven years later I still have relatively little stuff here in NZ but somehow I can't let go of the fact that despite getting rid of a lot in Scotland I still have far more than one person could ever need. Oddly I find that gives me a certain freedom too: a freedom of choice.

  4. I too think it would be an appealing life. To just garden and do charity work and help the downtrodden, etc. And there would be time for all the reading and writing and studying one could one. Heaven! But I could not do without sexual love so I guess I wouldn't be a good nun.

  5. I completely agree about the liberating feeling there must be in not having too much stuff - good for you, GB, for geting rid of a lot. My husband wants to downsize soon partly so we can cut right back - I'm sure we'll do it one day!

  6. Just like Maggie, I instantly noticed The "Sinsbury" bit in your post.
    As for stuff... well, I am quite radical about stuff. Compared to really poor people, I still have plenty, but I just don't like clutter and therefore my flat tends to be rather clear of things I do not need, and when I get presents I don't care about (or really don't need and/or like), I have no qualms in getting rid of them one way or other.
    And it honestly has never crossed my mind NOT going out for a meal simply because other people can not afford it. I work hard enough for the little money I earn, and therefore, I decide on what to spend it on. If I did not go out to a restaurant or pub, someone poorer than me wouldn't really benefit from that, would they?

  7. I have an intellectual and emotional pull towards that clarity of life, but it never translates in the slightest way with reality. I can go into a wonderful empty pristine place and fill it with junk in what seems to be a few hours.

  8. I know, right? Material possessions should be nothing more than things, and yet they affect our decisions and our lives more that they really should. I wonder why that is.

  9. Very thought provoking post Frances :-)

  10. Maggie, although it was a mistake, I rather like the idea of Sinsburys.

    Alis, my very organised neighbour has a box labelled "things I no longer need, but can't bear to part with". You could suggest this to your OH?

    GB - I think we all have "stuff we no longer need", even the best of us!

    My point exactly, Yvonne!

    Rosemary, have you tried hiring a skip? I think they're wonderful, not least becasue having hired one, you feel you have to fill it to justify the expense!

    Librarian, sensible as ever. I wish I could be like that!

    Me too, Jenny. Me too.

    Misha, I wish I knew the asnwer!

    Thanks, Diane!