Enjoy what you want by removing what you don’t need.

Do you really need it to be you?

This weekend was the hard rubbish sort at our place. The once a year opportunity to throw unwanted or unused things onto the front nature strip for the council to come along and collect them. This is a great service and it’s very easy. Certainly preferable to loading up the trailer, driving 20 minutes to the rubbish tip, making two trips as green waste goes to the recycling plant, and paying $50 for the privilege.

I love the idea of simplifying life through decluttering. Yet it never seems to work that way. I understand the concept that ‘if it hasn’t been used for 12 months then you don’t need it’. I do find it easier to donate things to charity than throwing them away but of course not everything is suitable for that.

At the end we kept most things for a variety of seemingly very good reasons. We cling to possessions because they have been a significant part of our past and hold a special place in our hearts. It’s very difficult emotionally to assign a big chunk of our lives to the scrap heap.

Do such attachments enrich or enslave us? Are we better off unencumbered with the past? Is it memories or mementoes that are important?

I struggle with this. I like things but I hate clutter. I need to be selective. I have family heirlooms and photos that easily fit on a single shelf. I’m fully aware that the time will come when we have to let go of all of our belongings. Our world inevitably shrinks as we age.

When my grandmother moved to a nursing home at the end of her life all she could take with her were a few family pictures, a few changes of clothes and her favourite vase. I was struck by the starkness of it all. Her only ‘thing’ was a vase that now had tape around the base with her name on it. And at the very end, of course, she couldn’t take any of her possessions with her. She left the same as she arrived, 94 years earlier.

I went to her home and watched her life being assembled on the drive, awaiting the local charity collection. Yet it wasn’t her life, only possessions she no longer had use for. It made me sad and I filled my car with things I hoped would maintain the bond between us now that she was gone. Things I remembered from my childhood; things of no monetary value but priceless to me. They were more about my past than hers but I’m glad I have them.

It’s true that the ego drives the relentless pursuit of material possessions as an indication of success, wealth and status. Yet the ego never has enough; we always want more. 

How can we resolve this? I’ve realised that, for me at least, I can have things I like without the attached guilt, and still have inner peace.

This involves knowing yourself. Is the art on the wall there to speak to your soul or to impress your friends with its monetary value? What do you own purely as an indication to the world of your status in life? What is for you and what is for them?

We all accumulate too many things and have to let go of some of them to create space for living. We can give away whatever we don’t need to those who might need it. Then pass on to our children whatever they find meaningful. In giving what we can’t keep, we receive what we can’t lose. Contentment. Then what we have left is more valuable to us.

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3 Responses to “Enjoy what you want by removing what you don’t need.”

  1. Paul Hassing Says:

    Another brilliant post, WLB2. It should now be crystal clear to you which of your posts resound with authenticity and which pling like a cheap tin drum. May you rise up to meet the road. P.

  2. adamnrave Says:

    I concur with the man in the red sweater, though not as forcefully. Nice use of the word ‘pling’ though, which I had hitherto taken for the BASIC programming language reference to a 32-bit word. Likewise very nicely said to you WLB2.

  3. Paul Hassing Says:

    Thank you ANR. ‘Pling’ suggested itself. I looked it up and, finding no evidence it was the correct term for this context, proceeded with confidence. You’ll notice this is a 32-word bit.

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