As we move closer to the holiday season, it is worth spending time thinking, or re-thinking, our relationship to our stuff. In this vein, my mom, Robin, a former professional organizer and a long time armchair philosopher on the intersection of material goods and contentment, has written a sequel to her first book, Robin's Rules of Order. I was honored to write the forward to the sequel, Writings on Robin's Rules. It follows here:
As a child, I sometimes chaffed under the strictness of “Robin’s Rules of Order.” When toys mysteriously “disappeared” (usually to Goodwill) or my mom was particularly upset by a mess left in the living room, I would tell myself that I would never care so much about order when I was older. By the time I was in college, I was the apartment-mate picking up my peers’ belongings left in our living room, and leaving little piles of possessions inside their bedrooms. The first time I engaged in this ritual, I realized, much to my horror that at the ripe old age of 21, I had already become my mother. Part of the gift of getting older is realizing that those things I hated as a child, actually had great value, and are in fact life enhancing and worth embracing in my adult life.
My mom will freely admit, that “Robin’s Rules of Order” are her personal credo and that they work for her because they are shaped by and for exactly who she is as a person. She offers them to the world as a suggestion, not as dogma. She recommends that each of us find our own credo, because having some rules for living, paradoxically breathes freedom into the areas where it really matters.
My own credo is of course, very informed by my mother’s, given that I was one of her first students. My ability to pack light is directly attributable to my mom. And packing light has afforded me the opportunity to live out of a backpack for weeks on end in remote wilderness settings, to move abroad for three years (and return from abroad) with two suitcases, and to pick up and move my life when opportunities have called. Not having literal excessive baggage has given me access to people and places that are heartbreakingly beautiful and mind expanding. Not having excessive baggage has fundamentally shaped and altered the course of my life for the better.
While my mom is quite right to note that her rules are not universally applicable or relevant, she is perhaps too quick to humble her perspective. She has spent a lifetime studying, practicing, cultivating, and living enough-ism. I’ve seen her contentment grow as she’s moved closer and closer to this guiding principle, and I’ve reaped the benefits early of knowing I never hope to own so much that it would hold me back from accepting an invitation to live my life in a more expansive way. If Robin’s Rules of Order provides the skeleton, Writings on Robin’s Rules provides the flesh—ripe with wisdom for those who are willing to listen.