For several weeks now I’ve had the saying “The squeaky wheel gets the grease,” repeating in my head. Thankfully, this has not been a non-stop repetition but more of a random thought-bubble intruding into my mental dialogue. A curiosity, if you will, which, of course, sent me on a tangent of wondering what wheel in my life was requiring some greasing.
The pandemic has been a great time to evaluate the ungreased aspects of my life as well as reevaluate those things into which I was at least performing some regular maintenance, if not too much. Like many folks, I’ve heard the messages we are bombarded with that more is better in all things. Work more to get more money to buy more things to impress more people! By the way, at the same time you’re working more to earn more money, you should simultaneously be relaxing more and playing more because you have, by now, spent what free time you may have had on creating a more efficient process for doing all these things so you can have more time to spend on working more.
Goodness that was stressful just writing that.
So, what if the wheels that are squeaking are the things that are overworked? The wheels are being turned too much and it’s not that they require more attention but, rather, a rest? The constant use, the go-go-go, is pushing those wheels to the breaking point and then where will you be? Off the rails, that’s where.
One wheel in my life that I keep greasing is my love of reading (and audiobooks). I had recently finished the book, “The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning” by Margareta Magnusson, and was talking to a dear friend who mentioned they were disposing of unused items around their home because they, to, had finished the book. And so, this is how I found myself looking around the house, in the barn, around the yard wondering what we could send on to its next life.
I had built up a collection of souvenir shot glasses over the decades and realized that was a wheel I had abandoned long ago. I didn’t want to spend time on something that was not important to me and did not bring me joy. Also, if I’m to be honest, Wisconsin’s drinking culture is rather destructive and I have not been immune to the influence. A self-medicating, binge-drinker isn’t who I want to be. So, goodbye shot glasses, goodbye wine walk wine glasses, goodbye vintage martini set.
Some items which need to go but require a bit more work and research into their value, from large, framed Terry Redlin prints, to a small sailboat, to collectible train stations also loom. Many items are not mine, but Mr. Muse’s, who, as I was making my way through the house collecting items, stated that he no longer enjoyed or looked at this, that, or the next. It could go.
There are also things with which we both struggle to decide if they are to be kept or sent away, like heirloom fine China that we use, perhaps, once every couple of years, to the heirloom silver that comes out with the China. The expectations of others, real or perceived, in the fate of these items can be rather burdensome.
Other items that have some life left in them or have been saved in perpetuity because one day, perhaps, we might use them also remain, like cans of paint and scraps of lumber. Truly useful items – so long as a use is found.
But, much like making busywork for oneself for the sake of being busy, the accumulation of stuff just for the sake of having stuff, is a wheel that doesn’t need to be greased. Less busyness, less stuff.
Admittedly, we’ve all been told some is good, more is better, and the thought of less can be terrifying. If I clean out my closet and have less clothing and shoes, what will I wear? If I clean out the rarely used kitchen gadgets, what will I do when I need that oddball item at some distant point in the future? If I sell or donate these books I have bought, read, and won’t ever read again, what if one day I forget that I already bought and read this book and I buy it again?
We even think this about our jobs, our personal connections, our free time – if it even exists. Spending enough time at work, having quality friends and acquaintances over quantity, filling every waking moment with an activity or conversation leaves no time to grease those wheels you may feel carry more importance.
And so, while I’m gently “death cleaning” (I have no intention of leaving my corporeal form any time soon) and sending items on to their next lives, I’m pondering which those wheels in my life which are silent or squeaking. Which ones do I truly want to continue to maintain? No small question in a culture that teaches you to always want more.
Wanting more, however, was something I spent time doing when I was younger and less wise. Now, the thought of less is quite appealing. Less stuff means less clutter, less clutter means less stress of the mind. Less stress means that I actually have found the more of something I want. More peace. More satisfaction. More appreciation for those items and people that bring me joy and happiness. Which also means that ultimately, more grease applied to those wheels I want to keep going.
So, I raise my tea mug to less being far more than I once thought.
Have you reflected on the “wheels” in your life? What did you figure out about them?
The Amusing Muse is a reader, writer, and ‘rithmeticker living in Southern Wisconsin. Her vegetable garden has had a tough year of it, but she’s making the best of things by growing a lot of herbs in pots and spending time tending to her collections of succulents and orchids indoors. She has spent a lot of the last two years reading and listening to books, both fiction and non-fiction, about WWII and is constantly amazed at how much her history classes got wrong or just simply never mentioned.