I have nothing against bandwagons. I hitch a ride on several, regularly. For example, I am under no delusion that my new found obsession with gardening came from my enlightened brain without influence. Hardly. I remember telling my mother a few years ago that gardening was for old ladies, so I'd take it up when I met that description. Then I read Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan and immediately started ordering heritage seeds. If I have my way, I’ll be raising chickens before I am through.
I read the book, I follow the advice. That is the pattern. Not my pattern, our pattern. We Americans do this regularly. It is perhaps one of our defining characteristics; our culture’s malleability. Some book or article or video footage hits the scene and before you know it we are all talking about it and obsessed and there is a full fledged trend.
My only experience with ever being ahead of a movement was low carb. And I don't mean that in the same way people do when they brag about liking a band's music before anyone else. Rather, I was regarded as nuts until everyone else caught the bug and it was rather uncomfortable. I read Protein Power, by Michael and Mary Dan Eades and was convinced I found the magic weight loss bullet. I tried to convince anyone who would listen how much sense it made. By the way, if you are one of the firm renouncers who thinks low carb is total insanity, I challenge you to read one of their books and see if your mind isn’t changed just a smidge. That said I bake bread at least twice a week. I eat pasta and potatoes too. Just because I believe it, doesn’t necessarily mean I do it.
And that rub brings me to the trend that got me thinking about trends today: Simplify. Elaine St. James’ Simplify Your Life kick-started that one for me and I tend to regularly get fired up about the subject. Anyone who has read about or has in any way caught whiff of the simplify/organize movement knows the first cardinal rule: Declutter. Now this is a particular problem for me, right up there with not being able to walk away from chocolate chip cookies. I tend to cling to things. Not in a sentimental or hoarding way, I can throw things out with the best of them, more in a ‘bags of stuff’ kind of way.
When I was in Kindergarten my teacher had to speak to my mother about all the bags I was dragging around. I have yet to outgrow this. I keep the little compartments of my life in individual bags and because I don’t know which ones I might need in any given situation I tend to carry them all with me, especially on overnight trips. I have a knitting bag, sewing bag, reading bag, journaling/calendar/to do bag, work bag, toy bag and of course, diaper bag. I don’t yet have a camera bag and it is making me crazy. I generally throw it in with the diapers.
I thought at first the reason I keep all these important things in bags is because there is no other place to put them. That’s it, I thought, I need storage solutions. But wait, didn’t my husband create just that in all of our closets when he put in extra shelves for me? Yes, he did. I’ve filled them, cleared them out and refilled them again several times over. Unfortunately, I declutter, but allow myself to reclutter regularly, hence the bags.
Trends are exciting and new when you first hear about them then they slowly fizzle as people like me realize actual work is involved in making life changes. My husband and I so highly value Michael Pollan’s recommendation to “eat real food” that we have had to completely revamp the way we acquire food. We now have a new pattern to our shopping. Instead of going to the grocery store, we go to the market twice a week. We have changed the process of that part of our lives. Now it is no longer work, it is habit, and isn’t that just the answer to it all?
The best of the trends should be our habits. They should be our culture, not a bandwagon. Of course, many of them used to be. You didn’t have to decide not to eat processed foods, figure out how to plant a garden, or declutter the ridiculous build-up of possessions. Go back far enough, and low carb wasn’t as outlandish as it sounds today either. Somewhere in our history as things got easier for us, living healthily got harder. Our country became rich and we became fat, anxious, depressed and bored and we’ve acquired stockpiles of stuff that doesn’t seem to help.
Unfortunately, a lot of our trends are a direct result of calculated efforts from big companies to get us to spend more money: Processed over fresh, artificial over natural, disposable over reusable. It can be hard to filter through all the influences and get to the core of what real life should be like. Surely it shouldn’t be so hard to be healthy and content.
Well, if I were to start a trend, I would boil down all of my favorite advice into this:
Eat real food, stay hydrated, get enough sleep, nurture relationships, move your body, and live in the present. Oh, and stop buying so much stuff.
I like to throw things.