Thursday, January 24, 2013
Clutter - Letting Go of Having-It-All
It was regrettable and, while I didn't resent the situation, I did hope to someday keep things a little longer.
After graduating, getting married, and settling into the traditional American lifestyle, the collecting started. As time passed, I realized that every item came with a cost in time, attention, and effort. Some gave me more value than I invested, but most ended up draining me. Week by week. Month by month. Year by year. But I couldn't give them up.
After all, I'd always wanted these things, and a place to keep them. And other people wanted me to own them, too. People who would be hurt and offended if I didn't keep them near and treasure them. I wanted them to think I enjoyed my belongings, as expected.
So even when I couldn't care for the item properly, it still remained. Even when no longer in use. Even when covered in dust or falling into disrepair or boxed away in storage.... My belongings became the treasured bars of a cage I couldn't see, but I felt the limits to my freedom and choices all the same. I belonged to them and the expectations they carried, much more than they belonged to me.
At the depth of my depressed years I looked up at my life and saw the cage. Depression does expose a new perspective, which can be very useful.
Slowly I started removing bars, the ones others might not miss, the ones I could explain. In the process I got rid of a few things that I missed later, but only those I'd eliminated due to outside pressure. I couldn't face the worst of it because I was afraid of disappointing someone, afraid I'd make the wrong choice. I was still bound by social expectations, and most of my fears weren't valid though I didn't know it at the time. I complained about it a lot.
Then, one day, someone got sick of my complaints and took the solution into their own hands, clearing my storage into the trash without a thought as to what might be in those boxes. As I realized the treasures that were lost, memories of my childhood, things that couldn't be replaced, I felt resentment building. How could they?
I didn't even have the consolation of thinking someone else might benefit from owning them. But then I remembered how I had been handling those things for years. Hadn't I virtually sent them to the trash long before? Were they truly a benefit to my life?
I'd been worrying over "what if" and "if only" making them a burden to my imagination, dreams, and daily life. Sure, there were better ways to deal with the problem, but the person I was at the time was incapable of handling it in the best way ... and it turned out that even the worst available method was better than not dealing with the problem. (Although, if you want to maintain a good relationship with someone, I recommend never using this tactic, instead helping them through the process of sorting.)
That shock broke the cage my possessions had constructed. I think the person who trashed my belongings wasn't expecting what I became capable of eliminating once the lesson was truly learned. I began to move forward into new, open spaces and invest available energy (that used to be consumed trying to figure out how to handle my stuff) into growth and life-changes.
Any item may have value if invested, but if I rarely gain or only lose from ownership, then it is merely a burden to me. These days I have learned to release them so someone with a compatible life and skills can benefit from their potential.
I will always have what I need, when I need it. To cling to what I do not need just in case I may someday use it can actually drag me into losing what I do value. Objects do not provide security. Only God is secure, and he is intangible.
And, you know? If I want to remember something, I save a photo to remember it by. After all, I don't need the object to have the memory. The world is a museum of beauty and design. I can appreciate it all without clinging to it.
My goal is to narrow my possessions into a couple suitcases-worth of essentials and an average closet of additional useful items that could be eliminated without much grief. Though they might need to be replaced, the replacement will come only as needed.
Please note that I don't think this is for everyone. Others benefit more from their belongings than I do, since my calling is different than theirs. For instance the brushes, canvas, paint, and pens that might burden one person (who only sees art as a possibility for when they stop doing something more valuable to them) are among my essential items because they currently add more to my life than I expend in keeping them.
I am choosing to maintain a lower level of possessions than most people. My dreams and life-goals demand mobility and flexibility, and I'm training myself to be prepared so when an opportunity arises I won't be struggling out from beneath a mountain of clutter that would hold me back from taking that step.
It's a wonderful sense of freedom.
* Fun bonus: My friend Chris Taylor just wrote the perfect de-cluttering song. "Don't let the world weigh heavy on your soul... I can plainly see common sense has made a fool of me."
Listen and buy the download if you like it. Artists need that kind of support, you know.
My thought: Is it really common sense to keep something just in case you may someday need it? Hmm ...
This post is prompted by the word "Clutter" suggested at the: