I’m in the middle of what feels like a huge downsizing (more on that another time). If anything brings into sharp focus the question we ask ourselves when working with the Sign of Enough– “How will I know when I have enough?” — it is going through a huge downsizing. What I recommend to everyone, no matter how old you are, is to start getting rid of stuff now and live that way from now on.
Last weekend I had a big garage sale. The driveway was piled high with stuff and, as things sold, friends carried more stuff out from the piles in the house. I thought of those wonderful pictures in the book Material World: A Global Family Portrait (1995) by Menzel, Mann and Kennedy that show families around the world standing outside their abode with all the stuff they own piled around them. It’s a strong reminder of how much “haves” have and how little “have nots” have. Anyway, I got rid of lots of stuff. And then dear friends piled their cars with unbought stuff and took it off for donation.
When everything was over, I walked back inside. In all honesty I could hardly tell that anything was gone. How sobering is that?
And yet. . .
The process of gathering things, selling things, bargaining with people whether something I paid quite a bit for should be sold for $2.00 or $2.50, and watching all that stuff go off with people I didn’t know was very painful.
So, I’ve been thinking about all this quite a lot ever since the weekend. And what I think I find most amazing is this: I go shopping either to a store or on line. I see something I want. I may or may not NEED it, but I want it, and so I buy it. I bring it home or it arrives. From the moment I hold it and look at it, it somehow becomes part of me. It’s mine. And when it comes time to part with it, that action can feel “wrenching,” especially if I don’t really want to part with it or if it has been one of my favorite things in some way. And when is this feeling not so intense? For me it’s when I am replacing the object with a shiny, new one.
I’m not talking about people and pets here. I’m talking about an inanimate object that we bought and set down somewhere where it stayed until someone moved it. And I’m also not talking about those few things that, when we look at them, “spark joy,” as described by Marie Kondo in The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. I’m talking about all the rest of the stuff we have that is piled here and there, crowded into closets, drawers, attics, garages, external storage units that we pay a not insignificant amount for every month. It’s all that stuff that still may cause us to cringe when we start to dispose of it. And THAT is what we need to explore.
I’m going to spend some time doing that, and then I’ll be back to talk about what I’ve discovered. In the meantime I invite you to do the same. Here are some questions I’m going to ask myself:
- When did my stuff become part of me? When I first got it, or did it take some time having it around?
- What kinds of stuff are the hardest for me to get rid of? Kitchen stuff? Office stuff? Clothes? Shoes? Sports equipment? Hobby tools, e.g. cameras, lenses, bags? Memorabilia? Gifts? Family “treasures?”
- Who am I without all this stuff? What changes? Where in my body do I feel that “loss?”
- How exactly does it feel to get rid of stuff that I really like, yet doesn’t “spark joy,” when I don’t intend to replace it?
If you decide to work with any of these questions or any other ones that occur to you, please post whatever thoughts or feelings you experience.