Saturday, April 20, 2013

We Are More Than Our Things

This post first debuted on my now-defunct "de-cluttering" blog.

Here's the thing: I have too much stuff. Chances are that if you're reading this blog, you also own more stuff than you can comfortably handle. You have too much clothing. You have too many stuffed animals from your childhood. You have too many trinkets. You have too many papers left over from the classes you're long done with. No matter what you're in excess of, rest assured that it is possible to part with most of it without facing any long-term emotional repercussions. Here's why.

Your possessions do not feel.

Your possessions seek no loyalties.

In my closet are boxes upon boxes of sentimental childhood items ranging from pieces of "artwork" to Happy Meal toys to a collection of bouncy balls. The common thread? To give them away would feel like a betrayal of the object itself, the memories it embodies, and (if applicable) the person I received it from. I have many items that fit this bill. The first that comes to mind is a Cabbage Patch doll my maternal grandmother gave to me when I was five or six years old. While I no longer have any use for it (and admittedly didn't play with it much as a kid), I've never had the guts to donate it because if I did, I would feel like I've disrespected her memory—in a way, I fear it would be like throwing her away!

My grandmother on my dad's side doesn't have this problem. She often receives gifts that she has no use for, and she feels no guilt in giving them to new homes. Thinking about it, she's quick to make room in her home and mind for what truly matters: the person, not the thing.

Have you ever watched Hoarders? Do yourself a favor and watch a season or two. The people featured on Hoarders have chosen their stuff over their relationships. You'll notice that many hoarders are too caught up with preserving the past to enjoy the present.  For example, they often spend more time "organizing" countless mementos and memories from their children's younger years than they do with the children themselves!

These items served us once, and they will go on to serve others. There are kids who would love the hell out of that Cabbage Patch Doll. It shouldn't be crammed in a storage bin—in fact, I'm betting my grandmother hadn't even expected me to attach that kind of guilt to her gift in the first place.

Let's spell it out, shall we?

My late grandmother was more than a cabbage patch doll.
My mom is more than a collection of childhood trinkets.
My dad is more than a bag of basketball gear.

We are more than our things.

Don't get me wrong: keepsakes can be important. I love keepsakes. However, having too many keepsakes can border on being disrespectful to the individual whose memory they hold. Your loved one is not a thing or a collection of things. Their soul does not exist in each and every thing they owned or put into your possession. Where they do exist, however, is in your life and in your memory. Enjoy the company of the individual while they're alive and keep only the most important sentimental items when they pass. They are not their stuff and NEITHER ARE YOU!

You don't need the object itself to remember a loved one. If you're afraid of losing the memory of these possessions, find a creative and meaningful new way to "capture" the essence of that memory. Take artfully arranged pictures of the items before sending them to new homes. Journal about the item. Turn it into art. Do whatever it is you need to do to ensure that you can remember the item and the memories associated with it without actually having to own it.

And above all, let's commit to living in the present.

No comments:

Post a Comment