I was talking with a young friend recently about how I have far too much stuff and how hard it is to get rid of my things. She said she and her husband recently bought a big house and they have the opposite problem. They need a lot of things for their home, especially the kitchen. So she is buying a lot of furniture and housewares.
I went through that phase at her age. I aquired things non-stop. It never occurred to me that one day I would have too many belongings. Youth is a time for filling up your home. Old age is a time for letting go of things.
I have been slowly getting rid of things for the past three years. I have two large plastic storage bins in an extra room that I fill up with books, clothes, kitchen things and anything else I am ready to donate and when the bins are full I put everything into clear garbage bags and load them into the back seat of my car and give them to the Salvation Army or Value Village.
The troubling thing is, I have been doing this for three years but I don’t see a big difference in my home. It is still overflowing with stuff.
A friend who is close to my age devotes a lot of time and effort to her downsizing efforts. We were talking about this one day and she mentioned the “removing something from the donation pile” phenomenon. We both laughed because I have done it too.
There is a little wooden sculpture I made for an art education assignment when I was in art school over thirty years ago. It was a throwaway thing. I made it for a mark in a class, not out of any deep sense of artistic purpose. I went to the wood shop and rummaged in the discard box and glued a bunch of odd shaped wood pieces onto a flat piece of wood. I didn’t put much thought into it. But when it was done it reminded me of a mini science fiction city-scape. It had a whimsical appeal and the different shapes of the wood pieces were aesthetically pleasing to me. I held onto that little thing for more than 30 years. Lately I have put it in my “donation” pile twice, and I have rescued it twice. Yesterday I picked it up, wanting to let it go but wondering why I can’t.
I thought about the feelings attached to the piece. I honored the work that went into it, and the meanings connected with it. I felt a bit sad because when I donate it, the people receiving it might throw it in the garbage, because it is just a strange little abstract wooden sculpture of no great intrinsic value, except to me. I contemplated how little bits of me are somehow tied up with my belongings.
I found that after I spent some time contemplating these things, I felt I could let go of the sculpture that had shared my life journey for over 30 years.