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Tuesday, August 2, 2011

More or Less?

One day recently, I was blowdrying my hair in my little room and thinking about a conversation my mom and I had when she visited in June. She got a kick out of the way New Yorkers have to use every inch of space creatively: dishes in the oven, bicycles in the bedroom, boots under the bed.

I shed a lot to move here from Charlotte, and there's still more to go. But honestly, not having a lot of space isn't such a bad thing. It makes me be disciplined about what I choose to keep and how I take care of my things. My laundry has to be put away immediately because there's nowhere to leave it sitting around. Before I let myself buy anything, I have to consider where I would put it. The fact an entire industry exists in America to help us store stuff we're not currently using is proof that we should all hold a few more garage sales.

Having pondered the topic a bit already, it was ironic to arrive at work and find an email from my sister. "Made me think of you!" she typed. She'd gotten it via a site called The Daily OM, and it was called "The Weight of Objects: Clearing a Space for Change."

Here are a few of my favorite excerpts:
We hold onto material objects because we think they make us feel secure, when in reality they are cluttering our lives.

While it’s true that the ownership of “stuff” can make you feel good for awhile, it seldom satisfies the deep inner longings that nearly everyone has for fulfillment and satisfaction. It is only when we are ready to let go of our baggage and be vulnerable that it becomes possible to recognize the emotional hold that our possessions can have on us.

It’s easy to convince ourselves that unused possessions might come in handy someday or that parting with them will cause you emotional pain. However, when your personal space is filled with objects, there is no room for anything new to enter and stay in your life. Your collection of belongings may “protect” you from the uncertainties of an unknown future while keeping you stuck in the past.

It's amazing how freeing it's been to let go of a lot of "stuff" in the past few months -- mostly material, but some emotional baggage as well. I keep telling people it reminds me of the feeling you get when you clean out your purse: Why have I been lugging this big ol' bag of crap everywhere I go? Why didn't I lighten my load months ago?

Maybe it's easy for me to feel this way because my life right now feels so full -- not of material stuff, but of rich experiences, new discoveries, friends, adventures, delicous food. But I know I haven't always felt this way. Last fall, I went to see a "seer," and one of the things she told me was that I needed to come to terms with the power I was letting my possessions have over me. "You like your creature comforts," she said. "You've going to have to decide whether you're going to let those hold you back from really following your spirit."

Hearing those words made easier to accept that there was no way I could move to New York without a serious exercise in downsizing. There have been a few moments when I've wished I still had a certain pair of shorts or a particular kitchen gadget. But for the most part, I feel like I'm living proof of the promise in that email:
When you make a conscious decision to fill your personal space with only the objects that you need or bring you joy, your energy level will soar. ... As you learn to have a more practical and temporary relationship to objects, positive changes will happen, and you’ll have space to create the life that you desire.


Mandy said...

When consolodating EVERYTHING post-wedding, letting things go was something I really had to come to terms with. There simply is not enough room in the house for all of our *things.*

I think, though, the hardest thing for me to let go were my books. (I clean out my closets and kitchen every time I catch even a glimpse of "Hoarders" on TLC!) Those books each held some memory for me - a fun summer read, a class at FSU I'd really enjoyed, a plan I had for teaching something. And I struggled, too, to let go of those books because so many of them were ones I intended to put in my classroom when I return to teaching. I felt like by getting rid of the books, I was getting rid of my teacher identity. But, once they were all donated and the office was clear and open, it felt good. Totally worth it all.

Neil said...

my aunt always says, "the more things you own, the more things that own you." i think one of my favorite things about living in new york is how it forces us to own so little - only the things we really need. though i worry that our new house with the huge basement may put this all to a test...