I was listening to a podcast recently about a guy who (among other things) decided to give up all of his material possessions and live a different life. He spoke in depth about calling a friend, and asking her to go to his apartment and get rid of all of his stuff – sell it, throw it out, give it away – whatever she felt like doing, and don’t call him until it was done. In fact – don’t call him at all. He decided to own only 15 items, and to give one up each time he bought something new. As I sat there and listened to this, I felt something wet on my chin, and realized that I was drooling. (I mean – metaphorically of course!!) The very idea of just tossing everything and living out of a suitcase sounded like absolute heaven to me!
Ironically, a few weeks before I listened to the podcast, I realized that I had the overwhelming urge to de-clutter, or more accurately – to toss everything in a garbage bag and walk away from it. I took two things away from this experience. The first was – clearly I have too much stuff. I have had a couple of experiences in my life which culminated is large amounts of the material possession I owned being completely destroyed or removed – and not by choice. Those experiences led me to cherishing people and experiences over material things, and it was one of the best decisions I made. It doesn’t mean that I don’t own stuff, or don’t like stuff, but I definitely am not as attached to ownership as I once was. And every time the tipping point comes, and I feel myself being overwhelmed by stuff, I do a massive de-cluttering (or sometimes – just pack up and leave the country!!)
The second thing it taught me was something about myself, and the value of freedom. I realized that – more than feeling as if I have too much stuff, I was also feeling trapped by that stuff. I noticed (for myself at least) that the more I own, the more fearful I become, and the more trapped I feel. I feel fearful about losing it, about taking care of it, about maintaining it, about replacing it when it goes and I feel trapped in how much I have to earn, and what lengths I have to go to in order to maintain these things. I think the thing that appealed to me the most when I heard the guy’s story is that it sounded so freeing – no car, no furniture etc. The funny thing is that I used to think that owning stuff would make me happy (I mean – this is what we are often sold by advertisers – look how happy the people are who own this thing, and how unhappy are the ones who don’t). However, I realise that it had the opposite effect (for me at least), and that I really value freedom over possession, and people over things.
And the lesson that I learned from this experience? Sometimes I have to let things go in order to be free. And for me – that applies to possessions. It is almost like the ring in Lord of the Rings (aaaaah – nerdiness rules!!) sometimes I feel like when I own something it really owns me! And sometimes letting that thing go is the most difficult and the most freeing thing that I can do. But for me that also applies to people, to jobs, even to ideas! Sometimes I just need to let things go, to de-clutter, to free my mind! And to me – these two things de-cluttering my possessions and de-cluttering my mind – need to be done thoroughly and with some frequency. Truthfully – I find it hard to let go! I don’t really like change. Sometimes I hold onto something because it has been there for so long that I can’t imagine life without it, even though it stopped serving me long ago… Because I feel as if I invested time/money into it, I am prepared to invest more time/money into it, which is really just throwing good money after bad… Because I am holding onto a version of myself that no longer exists… And, in addition to being wonderfully free when I let these things go, sometimes I need to let things go in order to take hold of the good things ahead, which are not available to me while my hands and my mind are fully cluttered.
So….. as I journey into this new decade, I start the process of de-cluttering my mind, and my bedroom. If anyone wants to buy a DVD player, and old pair of jeans or a treadmill – you know where to find me!!
Sending you big love from a small island
Ps - took this lovely photo on my birthday a few days ago... Sailing takes me away.......,