Since 2010, with my family, I donated or sold 50% of my stuff, and then another 50%, and then anything I didn’t want to bring from a big house to a small apartment. This naturally created more space, but it also completely redefined the relationship I have with stuff.
All my things used to be my favorite things
I used stuff to feel better.
If I was bored, I went shopping. If I was down, I bought something to lift me up. If I was up, I bought something to celebrate.
Now, if I’m bored or down, I sit with it. Instead of shopping away pain or worry, I feel it. Now I understand those feelings are my body’s way of saying, “Listen, something isn’t right.” not “Let’s go buy things.”
I used stuff as an excuse.
My stuff was an excuse for a bigger home, and a better paying job. I needed a place with bigger closets, more cabinets, and more square footage for all my stuff. And, of course I needed to make more to pay for it all.
Now, I realize my home is a place for joy and connection, not a place to store stuff.
I used stuff to show people who I was.
My extensive book collection demonstrated how smart and well read I was. I wore suits into conference rooms so everyone would know I belonged there, even thought that’s the last place I wanted to be. My big house, nice car, job title, and high-end dining room table made me believe I was successful and confident.
Now, I find confidence in who I am, not what I own.
I used to protect my stuff.
I collected it, stored it, moved it across the country, and from one living space to another. If a friend borrowed a book or something else, I’d keep track of it, or put my name on it, waiting for it to be safely returned. I’d get panicky about thinking what I’d rescue from a fire, or worry about things being stolen.
Now, while I appreciate the things I own, I am not attached to them. They don’t own me back any more.
For example, I’m grateful for …
- a good pan to cook breakfast
- my computer that helps me put my work into the world
- a pair of shoes to walk around the city, or into the woods
- my yoga mat
- art on the walls
There are other things I appreciate too, but none of them, including the things listed above have a hold on my heart.
The more I move through the world with less stuff, the more I realize my favorite things aren’t things.
My favorite things include …
- visiting new cities
- hours at a time to write or walk
- remembering precious moments
- a great night of sleep
- a neighborhood espresso
- taking a yoga class
- spending time with people I love
- living … really living
When I saw how stuff was getting in the way of those things, my favorite things, the way I felt about stuff changed.
The best part about letting go
Even though my stuff was holding me back, it wasn’t easy to let go. I had to face the guilt of all the money I spent. The fear of giving something away I might need some day, and the worry of disappointing people by not owning the right things. But still, the meaningful things were more important … important enough to let go of everything that meant nothing to me.
By letting go, I realized my favorite things aren’t things any more. I discovered more space, more time, and more passion for what I really cared about.
The best part though is I remembered who I was. By letting go, I found my way back to love.